Our Fractured Crown: An Eastern Roman Timeline

An Author's Starting Word
  • "It is easier to find men whom are willing to volunteer themselves unto death, than those whom are willing to endure pain with patience," - Gaius Julius Caesar
    --

    No, your eyes do not deceive you. Yes, I have returned, and yes this is an entirely new thread with the same name as the previous.

    I'll prefix this by clearing the air on why I've been gone; in short--issues within my home country got in the way. Racially charged riots against fellow minorities here as well as the continued decline of infrastructure played their part in me feeling uncomfortable continuing to work on my works here for that time.

    With that in mind you might be asking why I've made a new thread? Simply put, I'm not satisfied with the previous one--and with the previous one's setting. As you all well-know a writer must enjoy what they're writing to make good of it, and looking back on that threat the prospect of continuing it doesn't appeal to me.

    I've always felt drawn to the last moments of the Empire--to figures such as Constantine XI Palaiologos, and the last chances the Empire had to survive and thrive. In this I've always cautioned myself to stay clear of this because it's also one of the most contested and debates aspects of Roman history on the forum; that last gasp of air before being silenced so viciously on the 29th May, 1453.

    I've decided that I'm going to take a crack at it anyway--and the most obvious year to set the beginning of this new timeline of my creation is the 24th of May, 1328. Why this date? It is the date of the official ascension of Andronikos III Palaiologos--the last Emperor with any chance of saving the Empire; the last time the Romans had enough blood left to bleed to catch a breath.

    Andronikos is interesting to me because he reminds me of Constantine XI in many ways; a man with the ability and drive to restore the Empire but simply not enough means at his disposal to do so. In better times they would have been amongst the lauded Emperors, but of course they never had that chance.

    My goal with this timelines start is to smooth out the exact amount of rough edges Andronikos himself possessed to allow the Empire to survive--and survive in a way that allows it to slowly regain its strength.

    Those who've been with me from the start of my first timeline well-know my opinion on the strengths and bounds of the Empire; I'm not someone who believes in this grand idea of a fully reconquered Middle East or the reclamation of Italy; the Near East is where the Empire is now. It will never directly control past Antioch ever again--the path to any sort of growth will be slow and steady; as that wins the race.

    I hope those of you who've stuck with me will give me a chance with this timeline--and enjoy the groundwork I plan to lay in order to set the scene as it were. Please keep safe in this uncertain times, and enjoy yourselves.
     
    State of the Empire, 1328
  • "Where else but Constantinople?" - A Simple Roman Proverb
    --
    Before we begin a matter of perspective must be reached--because it is important that there is an understanding of the state the Empire is in within May of 1329, as well as the journey it took to get there.
    --
    There are several points which are looked to by historians and the like for the definitive points of permanent decline for the Empire--each of which inherently causes territorial loss and the continued spiraling of the Empire; in this I'm going to first break down each major change point by point and then address the direct state the Empire finds itself in at our start date.

    The Battle of Yarmouk - One of the most notorious on the list for obvious reasons. The loss of this battle resulted in the loss of the Levant to the invading Arabs and their new religion of Islam--as well as shattering the pride and moral Heraclius had so carefully recultivated in his backbreaking reconquest campaigns against the Sassanids. Yarmouk is famous for how badly the Romans lost--and how quickly it resulted in the loss of effectively all of the Middle East and Africa in short measure. Yarmouk left the Empire with a new permanent cap on its upper limits--one it would never surpass again even during resurgence.​

    The Battle of Manzikert - Often looked at with the most scrutiny, the Battle of Manzikert showed every failing of the Roman state in a rather compact and easy to understand manner. Manzikert put on display the fact that at its worst the Empire fails to work together, where as many states naturally unite when hammered, the Romans tend to scatter, and in this case they stabbed themselves in the back and effectively allowed the Turks to walk over them.​
    The end result of this battle was the destruction of Roman moral and pride once again--leaving them inherently fearful and flinching at the Turks until Alexios I Komnenos managed to hammer them back into shape--as well as the permanent loss of much of Anatolia; as the Turks came to settle and call it home shortly afterward. While many consider this the death knell of the Empire it inherently wasn't; as much of the lands taken weren't as valuable as those quickly regained, and there are arguments to make that at the beautiful heights created by John II Komnenos the Empire was about as strong as it had been directly after Basil II's death.

    The main thing to note with the Battle of Manzikert and what followed was the loss of Roman flexibility. Even with the loss of the Middle East the Romans retained that historic ability to lose the battle but win the war; they had that much flex in them. With the loss of so much land, as well as pride, following Manzikert the Romans found themselves forced to rely on allies to cover their shortfalls--which would eventually directly result in the Fourth Crusade. By the death of Manuel I Komnenos the Empire was like steel--strong, but if bent too far would snap.​
    The Fourth Crusade - Probably the most notorious on the list for what it represents, the Fourth Crusade is unique in that it was the book-end to a long decline--rather than an event which took a still tenable situation and made it much worse. The Fourth Crusade, while a product of Latin greed and inherent moral failure, was also the product of the Romans now well-established tendency to stab themselves in the back at the worst possible moment; as the Latin's wouldn't have even had the justifications they used for their disgraceful actions if an exiled Roman claimant hadn't effectively employed them to attack his own people.​
    The major end results of the Fourth Crusade are also the most devastating; leaving Constantinople a shell of its former self, and leaving much of the Empire's core Greek territories in the hands of the Latin's--putting restraints on the power the Empire could muster when it restored itself to a semblance of power in 1261.

    The Fourth Crusade is the effective backdrop for the starting date of this timeline--as its affects are all around the Empire still; Greece under foreign occupation, and Constantinople still not above 70,000 in population nor as beautiful.​
    --
    As of 1328 the Empire is at the weakest its ever been--and such a weakness has its reasons. As of the start date the Empire has just ended a 7 year long Civil War which has left it with all the issues associated with a Roman Civil War; loss of legitimacy, economy and troops.

    The most major of these is the economy--as the Civil War of 1321 - 1328 resulted in the large scale devaluing of the Roman currency, as well as the inherent loss of trade and thus resources caused by the strife within the state. To cap this off the Romans are looked at from four opposing angles; to the north-west by the Serbs, the north-east by the Bulgarians, south by the Latins and east by the Turks. The former two due to the fact that the Romans had directly involved them with the Civil War--as Romans tend to do; looking to get a leg up.

    To add worse to worse the military of the Empire at this point is effectively filled with peasant militia and mercenaries alone--save a few scant professional units. Such a terrible combination is often seen as a major factor in the failings of the military--as many of the few successes managed by the Romans were due to generals such as Philes Palaiologos who refused to use these troops and instead mustered their own professional levies.

    If the Empire is to have any chance at surviving it will need to navigate the complex political notions of the era as well as its military in a much different way--and in order to facilitate this Andronikos III himself must change just that little bit to accommodate this. Within this timeline Andronikos will be a man bearing both the guilt of the accidental death of his brother, and inadvertently his father, as well as the fact that his state is truly crumbling around him.

    In order for Andronikos to make the impacts needed to save the state he must temper opportunism with foresight and lack the Malaria that would prematurely kill him and permanently destroy any chance the Empire had at surviving. This is what I'll need to tackle for the entirety of the first part of the timeline.
    --
     
    Part 1; 1328 - Picking up the Pieces
  • "We have been neglectful fathers then," - Andronikos III Palaiologos upon seeing the full extent of the Empire's woes, attributed.


    May, 1328

    The War of the Two Andronikos', or the Roman Civil War of 1321 - 1328, had just ended. It was a measured end, which was surprising considering how long it'd dragged on and how both Serbia and Bulgaria had gotten involved [1]. All it had taken was Andronikos III to ride into Constantinople at the head of his larger force and youthful precession--and thereafter his grandfather was deposed and sent to a monastery.

    Andronikos hoped he died quietly, and gave no cause for further civil strife.

    The last days of the month were spent tying up loose ends that needed to be tidied; first amongst those loose ends was Syrgiannes Palaiologos; a distant relation of Andronikos and a former ally, turned enemy [2].

    Upon a short-lived reconciliation between grandson and grandfather, Syrgiannes had been left out in the cold. Naturally Syrgiannes felt he'd been overtly shafted both ways--and endeavoured to become Emperor himself. Needless to say that when Andronikos II found out Syrgiannes was trying to find an appropriate spot to introduce a dagger to his back the elder Emperor imprisoned the upstart.

    Andronikos III decided the fate of his former friend rather quickly; the upstart would be quietly gutted in his cell and his body disposed of. The Emperor wouldn't abide by traitors and flippants [3].

    Amongst other loose ends included the rest of his family; namely his uncle's and aunt [4]. Both of his uncles, Constantine and Demetrios, had been opponents against him during the Civil War--and both had to be dealt with, especially Demetrios considering his ties to the Serbian court. Both were to be tonsured and made into monks--a move that received very little pushback from his supporters considering the fact that most of them were young aristocrats such as himself; with the Patriarch Isaias siding with Andronikos on the matter [5].

    The true issue came in with Demetrios' wife and daughter. The wife herself wanted to join Demetrios in his monastic exile--something Andronikos was fine with; however the Emperor at that point began to push the idea of the whole family, including Demetrios' daughter Irene, going into monastic exile. Isaias himself was uncomfortable forcing a child into such a thing, and in the end Andronikos relented--allowing Irene herself to stay in court.
    --
    June - August

    An important note on the Imperial docket was the expanding famine and akin issues growing around Macedonia; something caused directly by the Civil War. The drawing of the militias had robbed the land of the men needed to work it--something Andronikos and his supports were now forced to rectify by disbanding the militias and allowing them to return home with whatever pay could be mustered; John himself paying out of pocket for many of these disbanded militiamen in a gesture of goodwill to his friend Andronikos.

    This left Andronikos with only a meagre personal guard and whatever men could be mustered from Constantinople's population; but such a notion didn't matter much right now. What did matter was the Gasmouloi, the mixed race Romans of Latin-Roman relations. They'd become skilled sailors and loyal citizens under Andronikos' great-grandfather Michael VIII who had attempted to restore the navy to working order, but with Andronikos II's disbanding of the navy they'd turned into mercenaries for the Turks and Venetians, as well as pirates that plagued the Empire's trade routes.

    It was John himself who organized the required pay in his capacity of Grand Domestic [6]--as Andronikos simply didn't have the mind for administrative duties. To this end, Alexios Apokaukos, another of Andronikos' supporters and friends, was put to the task of contacting and reorganizing the navy; using his connections as a Bithynian-born former humbler as the stepping stone.

    By mid-July the Imperial Fleet was beginning to take shape again--if slowly, with many of the older hulls in the Imperial docks of Constantinople being refitted and recrewed by those Gasmouloi willing to serve the Empire. By this point however a new initiative was being undertaken by Andronikos with John's aid; the restoration of the coinage.

    Due to the nature of the nature of the Civil War the Empire's coinage had been debased to make pay for the troops and akin by Andronikos II--this because Andronikos II himself controlled very little of the Empire's territory for much of the Civil War and thus had less income. This had had its affect though--as the debased coins had been circulated throughout what was left of the Empire in those 7 years and when combined with the ongoing famine and disrupted trade was causing an economic recession.

    It was decided that whatever coins could be recalled right then and there would be--and that a coinage based on those made and used by the Venetians would be put together; the primary terms for these being the standard Hyperpyron for gold and Stavraton for silver coins. These reforms were carried by Alexios following his return--within his capacity as the effective chief of finances for the Empire.

    In this time Alexios stimulated the local economy of Thrace with some low-level building projects; including a personal fortified tower in Selymbria, which he garrisoned with his retinue. All of this was done at the permission of Andronikos--as long as Alexios' tower and retinue were put to use if needed.

    It was around this time, around the end of July, that Andronikos began to take up residence in the Botaneiates Palace--finding himself drawn to the baths and other amenities offered as well as the near-central location of the palace within Constantinople. It was a change that his wife Anna of Savory found displeasing at first, but eventually she would come around to the idea once it was clear Andronikos intended to continue staying there. It wasn't long before the Botaneiates Palace became known as the Palaiologian Palace.

    By August Andronikos' mind began to focus on matters of war. Serbia was looking over ominously, and there were rumblings in the east of a Turkish nature. In this he, as a man who'd led his own troops in the Civil War, well-understood what a mess the Imperial forces were. They were naught more than farmboys with spears and shields thrust into their hands with some professional knights interspliced here and there.

    While his retinue was a professional force of horsemen numbering roughly 150 men was a viable tool it was the simple truth that the Empire needed more trained men--men led by the Emperor directly to ensure their loyalty.

    Andronikos took his time at first with this initiative--Alexios helping him pin down some viable recruiting spots around the capital's environs as well as within the capital; the Emperor slowly drawing in experienced hunters, trappers and militia men. Andronikos only allowed himself the barest budget needed--mustering enough to pay 4,000 men fairly; using the fact that the Palaiologian Palace had several rental properties to create 10 sectioned off barracks made up of multiple properties each; sectioning off his men into Droungos of 400 men each with a Droungarios leading each one. The whole unit of 4,000 would eventually come to be called the Hikanatoi; meaning 'Able Ones'--a name taken from an older, defunct, unit founded by Nikephoros I in the 9th century.

    Their separation into separate barracks ensured they could never be united enough to pose a real threat to the Emperor, as well as creating a unit mentality that would instill in them a will to stick together; although this would take more time to manifest.

    Their training was based on their previous experiences and latent talents; hunters and archer militiamen being trained as lightly armoured archers, trappers as medium armoured cavalrymen and the bulk of the former militiamen would be properly trained into heavy spearman.

    The creation of such a force within the capital itself caused small bits of concern from his supporters--as there had been no major bodyguard force since the Latin capture of Constantinople and the death of the Varangians defending it, which had allowed the aristocrats to make extra money on the side by allowing their own retinues to police sections of the city in exchange for payment.

    Andronikos bluntly waved them off with a firm warning, and the mood that followed was rather tense. Tense enough in fact that Andronikos threw himself into important matters of war further to distract himself. This would prove timely as messages from Michael III of Bulgaria would begin to flutter in asking for coordination of an invasion against Serbia--considering the Serbs seemed to be prepping themselves for war against the Bulgarians and Romans according to reports from Michael's border forts.

    The date for a mutual invasion--one in which the two Emperor's would work together--was set for mid-1329 after some managed deliberations in which both John and Anna offered their own inputs on the state of things; although Anna's mostly boiled down to how much time Andronikos would be forced to take away from the capital.

    With the month ending Andronikos made plans to depart from Constantinople with a portion of his Hikanatoi in order to tour the Empire's European territories and get an idea for what was going on. He'd put Anatolia off for later; after all, Europe was where he needed to focus.
    --
    September - November

    Andronikos and his chosen Droungos, the 6th, and its Droungarios Artemios, were ready to leave by late-early September--with the Emperor entertaining the idea of perhaps taking Anna along with him. However the former Italian found herself more drawn to refurbishing the Palaiologian Palace while Andronikos was too far away to counter her décor choices more appealing than marching up and down the Balkans.

    The first city stopped at was Adrianople, the city in which Andronikos himself had ruled from as Co-Emperor as well as being the heart of his efforts in the Civil War. His stay there was brief; just enough time to pay service to the locals and pay respects to the local temples before moving off. The march from Adrianople made obvious the fact that the roads were becoming a problem due to years of neglect--something Andronikos would mark down for later.

    His next major destination would be Thessaloniki--the city which had served as his powerbase in Macedonia during the Civil War. Its reputation as the second city of the Empire made it an important city to visit always, and Andronikos himself enjoyed the coastal airs, inspecting the harbours and akin before paying his respects to Saint Demetrios and departing. The position of Thessaloniki reminded him of how precarious things were; if Serbia were to successfully swing downwards Thessaloniki would be right in the path of a decapitating blow that could permanently strip the Empire of its European territories.

    Moving southward Andronikos quickly got reports from Kastoria of raids hitting the Empire from Thessaly--a land controlled in part by the survivors of the Catalan Company that the Romans had betrayed decades ago; Latins, just as well as Romans, were slow to forget injustices [7]. Andronikos would measure his march before breaking his forces up into two halves--giving the other to Artemios to command; moving to stem the small raiding groups coming from the east while Artemios took the west.

    The fact that Andronikos and his troops were already in the area allowed his troops to catch the Catalan's off guard--causing many to flee. Those that were captured would be forcibly resettled in sectioned groups away from each other along the south Balkans--their equipment taken and redistributed amongst the 6th Droungos when the two halves reunited at Kastoria by the near-end of October.

    The Andronikos and his troops would rest in Kastoria for the rest of the month, before breaking camp and marching up into the borderlands between Epirus, Rome and Serbia. He couldn't help but think on the possible reconquest of Epirus from the Latins currently ruling it; to perhaps regain his sister's body. But he cautioned himself and instead spent the next half-month checking the forts along the mountains with Epirus, before arriving at the important border city of Ohrid to inspect its population and walls.

    Ohrid was effectively the only major bastion between Thessaloniki and the grubby hands of the more and more expansionist Serbs--and Andronikos made sure to take his time there to ensure it was in proper order; even leaving behind bits of unneeded equipment to supplement the garrison of Ohrid before leaving.

    The Emperor would take the long route along the Serbian border on the way back--paying respects to the city of Philippopolis along the Bulgarian side of the Roman-Bulgarian border before pivoting back to Adrianople and then Constantinople.

    His presence across what was left of the European part of the Empire ensured a settling stability in this regions, and made it clear that he was a Basileus intent on keeping his Empire intact. Andronikos arrived back at Constantinople around the 22nd of November, 1328.

    December

    December was consumed with rest for the Emperor and his men in the early days--before they were set back to drills to keep their hands busy while the Emperor reevaluated things with both John and Alexios. During his effective half-year touring, John had managed to clear up several disputes over rights in Constantinople for Andronikos--quietly cutting down former supporters of theirs to clear the board of possible aristocratic enemies considering the power the administration under Andronikos was trying to re-exert over the capital. Alexios on the other hand had been playing double duty; carefully managing the finances to balance the books and streamline what tax and trade income did come in [8] in order to pay for the navy's refit, the employment of the bureaucracy and the Hikanatoi--while also acting as the effective head of the Roman navy.

    Much of the Blachernae had been stripped to furnish the Palaiologian Palace, with whatever couldn't be added being used to cover other expenses. Thus by the time of the Christmas celebrations the Palace had that womanly touch only a former Italian noble lady such as Anna could muster. Such a touch was enough to avoid Andronikos making too much of a fuss--and the reactions given by John, Alexios and Isaias were favourable.

    But even as he enjoyed his Christmas, and then the scant few days following, all Andronikos could think on was one thing; Serbia.


    [1] Serbia and Bulgaria each joined in on one side of the Civil War--Serbia with Andronikos II and Bulgaria with Andronikos III. The fact that Andronikos III had been the one to win the Civil War, and that Bulgaria had aided him, is considered the basis for the long lasting alliance between the Palaiologoi led Rome and Bulgaria.

    [2] Syrgiannes had been one of the principal instigators of the Civil War for Andronikos III--alongside John Kantakouzenos, who was the now-sole-Emperor's closest friend. He'd turned to the opposing side when he felt like his contributions weren't being properly rewarded, and caused several issues for Andronikos.

    [3] Andronikos in this timeline puts a lot more stock in personal loyalty and oaths between friends--as well as those between allies. The killing of Syrgiannes here avoids a headache for the Empire later.

    [4] Andronikos III had no other real family to worry about; his brother Manuel had been killed in a misunderstanding by Andronikos' own retinue, and his two sisters had both been the consorts of Epirus and Bulgaria respectively--and with the elder Anna dying to sickness following the Orsini take over of Epirus, and Theodora still serving as the consort of Tsar Michael III of Bulgaria. Theodora herself was vital to the alliance and peaceful relations between the Romans and Bulgarians.

    [5] Isaias was a known supporter of Andronikos III during the Civil War, and was even confined to selected quarters by Andronikos II because of this. His release by Andronikos III, as well as the musical precession he was given upon his return, endeared him to the young Emperor.

    [6] Originally a military position known as the Domestic of the Schools, the Grand Domestic title was once held by those who were given supreme command over the Empire's army--second only to the Emperor. By the time of Andronikos III it has become the title used by what equates to the Steward; given supreme authority over the administration and the like of the Empire.

    [7] The Catalan Company was a company of skilled mercenaries who had been involved in the Sicilian Vespers prior to their employment by Andronikos II. Andronikos II had employed them for the express purpose of retaking and reinforcing Anatolia from the constant Turkish efforts made against the Roman lands there. Led by their Captain, Roger de Flor, they won massive victory after massive victory and greatly stabilized the east for the Romans. The issues came in when Roger began treating Anatolia as a personal governorship--or at least that's what was claimed to Andronikos II, who would see Roger and most of his fellow companymen butchered in a betrayal at Adrianople by Andronikos III's father Michael IX. The surviving Catalans would sow deadly revenge across the entire Empire for years before retreating south to pledge their service to the Latins there; they've been a thorn in the size of Constantinople for decades.

    [8] Despite what many think most of the Empire's funds came from taxations placed on the land and its renters--not trade. It was for this reason that Alexios I Komnenos was willing to part with tariffs for Venice--as it didn't take a massive chunk out of the Empire's income. What trade income did provide was access to easy liquidity--and allowed the Emperor to quickly make payments at any time; this is what was lost. By now the Empire's taxes and trade incomes have degraded down massively--with the biggest bites being taken by the Italian trading Republics and the Pronoia grants; which saw the taxes gobbled up by the landed aristocracy in-exchange for military service. The main source of taxes for the Empire now was on the land personally held by the Emperors--although all the land within the Empire was technically, and legally, the Emperor's the Pronoiars still held power over their domains.
     
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    Part 1; 1329, January to June - Not One Step Back
  • "One no longer needs to wonder why the Romans of Anatolia don't mind the yoke of the Turk anymore," - Artemios, Droungarios of the 6th Droungos of the Hikanatoi, remarking on Pursa.

    January - February

    The start of the year went about as expected; with several issues that needed tending to rolling in from all the corners of the Empire.

    The highest amongst them was the continued entrenchment of the Genoese further up the Aegean and even in the Black Sea with their colonies--and Galatia was making itself a permanent fixture within the Empire's trade network. It was simply troubling to have such a powerful mercantile and naval rival right on the doorstep of the capital.

    The other on the list was the Ottoman Turkish assault against the Empire's remaining stronghold cities in north-west Anatolia; Nicaea, that jewel of Roman history, being the one under the longest siege--for almost 30 years. The reports coming back from Nicaea weren't good--and they were sparse at that, making clear how strong the siege was becoming.

    Orhan Gazi was a siege expert in comparison to his noted father Osman, and the Ottomans had had years to cut their teeth on the practice while taking Pursa [1]; their now capital. They were on the cusp of taking Nicaea--the only thing stopping them was the uniqueness the city had with its lake-harbour that allowed it a semblance of supplies when the Ottomans let their guards down.

    This was the spark of a fire for Andronikos; something military he could understand and get attached to [2]. He placed the task of creating a functional supplyline to contest the Turks at Nicaea on Alexios; relying on his general naval cunning and skill with finding the right people for any job that needed doing. In this he also wrote letters in his own hand to the leadership of the city; promising support in a few months time, and then a more watchful eye from then on out to ensure they didn't suffer as they did now.

    It was only by the end of January that Andronikos, with the aid of John, had made a dent in the reports and requests flooding in--mostly from the frontiers of Albania and around the fortress of Kastoria in upper Macedon. The reports weren't any better than those from Anatolia; the Serbs were more restless than ever, and were starting to pressure the Bulgarians more heavily--even exerting soft power over Macedon as Andronikos had feared a year earlier.

    The requests? They were pleasingly mundane by comparison. One of the most pleasing Andronikos himself got was from Mount Athos, an important religious community given effective rights of control over the Athos Peninsula of Macedon by his grandfather; one of the few things Andronikos found himself agreeing on with his predecessor [3].

    It was a simple letter from Gregory Palamas, a noted monk from Athos who had become the effective spokesperson for a unique ideology of Orthodoxy champion on Anthos. The letter in question offered Gregory's adoration of the Emperor and his piety, as well as hopes and well-wishes for his health, with the monk asking for small trading rights so that the monasteries on Athos might sell their self-produced goods in order to gain an income to keep themselves afloat without help. Such a simple thing brought a unique joy to Andronikos' heart, and he wrote back in kind--noting that he hoped to meet Gregory when times were easier, and giving him the asked for trading rights.

    While John himself raised a brow at this he didn't contest it, considering his own piety, and went about piecing together the needed documentation to make it happen; this coinciding with similar trade issues that were starting to crop up now that the Imperial Fleet was getting strong enough to police sections of the Marmara and extract tariffs from merchants without the concessions given to Venetians and the Genoese.

    The Genoese in particular began to feel like the Empire was stepping on its toes within the region, and rumblings began to be heard as the end of February came into focus [4], but with the eyes of Alexios on the region due to his task of supplying Nicaea they held their actions in check for now.

    March - April

    It was around late-early March that letters began to come from Michael III of Bulgaria; they were pressing for Andronikos' to decide on an official time to make a joint effort against the Serbs led by Stefan III. Andronikos himself was rather simple and honest with Michael III in his replies; indicating that his Anatolian cities needed him at this time, but he did not wish to leave Michael out in the cold.

    To correct this he used some of the wealth the Empire had begun to recoup in order to extend the contracts of the remaining Mercenaries in the Empire; most of which were Bulgarians and Turks anyway. This contract extension was set until 1332, and in this Andronikos transferred their command to Michael, sending them to Tarnovo to serve him. These mercenaries numbered roughly 5,000 men.

    If Michael wanted to continue using them past 1332 he would have to pay them himself--but the gesture elicited a uniquely pleased response from the bellicose and prickly Emperor of the Bulgarians [5], and saw him ease off his efforts to court Andronikos for further aid when the news reached him at the end of March.

    Much of early April was spent checking the equipment of his Hikanatoi in order to ensure it was at least up to basic par, before he and the city were consumed with Easter Celebrations and the Emperor's mind was drawn off by the need to indulge his wife's needs and wants for a time. Andronikos himself at least wanted to keep her on side, as they'd known each other a while, and while they disagreed on many things there was still an underlying love there.

    It was only by late April that the Emperor found himself able to pull away from domestic affairs and approach his Hikanatoi once more. Ever a military mind, Andronikos had devised a system of swapping out the core of the forces for each campaign--as the surrounding enemy states rarely had a core of professional troops as large as 4,000. In this he hammered in a system in which the 10th Droungos led by Theodore would remain at the capital at all times as a defense force, while the core of 5 Droungos he took with him would be interchanged following each campaign; while the 6th would always remain at the core of it.

    Thus, for the planned expedition to Anatolia, it would be the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th and 9th, and Andronikos ensured to begin their drilling and equipping accordingly; as an early start to this would give them a leg up.

    May

    May was effectively consumed entirely with preparations for the campaign; Alexios had told Andronikos bluntly that the Turks were well-aware of the fact that the Romans were coming in soon due to the supply-efforts Andronikos had instructed Alexios to handle, and thus warned the Emperor that the latest they could viably get to Anatolia without interference from the nearby naval Beyliks of Karasi and Aydin would be late-early June.

    Andronikos made the drills about one thing and one thing only; Turks. The Turks were famed for their use of horsearchers and akin, as well as their current lack of a real infantry body and reliance on Ghazi raiders. Andronikos hammered his chosen troops into shape; carefully lessening the natural fear 'civilized' men had of horsearchers with a firm hand.

    The Emperor understood however that all soldiers needed rest, and would often intersplice training with allowances--such as allowing them to make use of the secondary baths at the Palaiologian Palace to ease their bodies after a long stint of training.

    What really endeared Andronikos to his troops is the fact that he endured everything they endured; making a point to be the first 'subject' of the training to show the functionalities of it--as well as always eating with them, as well as what they ate. He made it clear that as their commander he would suffer through everything they suffered through, and created a bond with those he would take with him to Anatolia by the time the month ended and the Romans were forced by news of Karasi activity along the Hellespont to get moving.

    The last days of May were used to stockpile supplies and prep the transport ships to cross the Bosporus--that time also taken to lay out some directives for John and Alexios to follow considering the fact that the Emperor would be away from the capital for a good few months and it was unlikely he'd be able to keep up regular communications considering the circumstances.

    June

    The army of the Emperor, and it's Emperor, left Constantinople at roughly 2 am on the 1st of June; arriving in Chalcedon roughly 3 hours later under the cover of the early morning. The army itself rested for a day in Chalcedon, checking through supplies and equipment as well as taking in the arrival of messengers and scouts to get a lay of the land.

    It became clear quite early on that there would be fighting before they even reached Nicaea to relieve it--as there were reports of Ghazi raids across Bithynia--notably around Nicomedia. During the stay in Chalcedon Andronikos unloaded excess equipment he and his forces did not need--mostly excess armour, and gifted it to the militia of Chalcedon, as well as ordering that trees be cut down from the western side of the city along the coast in order to build simple defenses so that the city might have more flexibility in a siege.

    When everything was ready the Emperor and his forces departed Chalcedon at around early day, the 3rd of June, marching down with a managed pace to Nicomedia. This march was interrupted when the scouts reported that there were Ghazi raiders within the vicinity of the city; Andronikos breaking his forces up into two sections along the lines of foot vs mount.

    Andronikos gave control of the cavalry detachment of his forces to Artemios, ordering the Droungarios to curve around the local forestry and keep a distance until the Palaiologian banner went up. The archers and footmen led by Andronikos caught the Ghazi raiders that had been terrorizing Nicomedia roughly an hour after that, resting at a watering spot and weighed down by their plunder of the local villages.

    The ensuing battle was a sort of test case for Andronikos and his men--his footmen holding firm behind their shields and spears and keeping the Turkish horsearchers off of the archers as said archers began to gradually pick away at the riding Turks with sustained fire. When it looked as if the Ghazi might flee that is when the banner was raised and Artemios arrived to firmly cut them off.

    The result of the battle was a decent spoil of horses, Turkish armour and arms, as well as some prisoners. Andronikos gave his troops rite to take as they wanted from the spoils; many riders taking to new and better horses while the infantry equipped themselves with extra pieces of medium Turkish armour. Much of the spoils had only been possible due to the unique approach the archers had taken to the horsearchers; one only open to them considering their history of being hunters prior to being recruited [6].

    The prisoners, roughly numbering around 100 all and all, were sent as military colonists along the Roman-Serbian border--split up amongst those villages in need of excess men with soldiering ability.

    It was the 5th of June by the time the Emperor and his troops reached Nicomedia; confident they'd cleared out enough of the surrounding Ghazi to move onwards. Within Nicomedia the troops sold what could be sold from their spoils, and they and the Emperor held a service in the Hagia Sophia of Nicomedia in thanks for their victory.

    Their time in Nicomedia was time enough for Andronikos to write to his wife Anna as well as his administration--namely John, on the progress made and to affirm their movements now southward to Nicaea. John himself would later arrive with a small personal guard of roughly 100 men, as well as fresh supplies. After some time affirming things with John, the Emperor would order the Hagia Sophia of Nicomedia restored with local building materials and inspect the fortifications before he and his troops left after a decent rest on the 9th of June.

    The march further southward wasn't an easy one--as the area was heavy with death and destruction due to the continued raiding of the Ghazi--as well as the simple fact that Nicaea's environs had been hit over and over again with no chance to recover for nearly 30 years. This march began to pick up stragglers--namely militiamen wanting to fight alongside their Emperor--and by the time the Romans were intercepted roughly a days march from Nicomedia, their number had grown from roughly 2,100 to 2,700.

    This interception would be along the hilled interior environs of Nicomedia by Orhan Ghazi himself, and his mustered column of troops. The Ottoman Bey had camped upon the strongest positions of the area, and effectively blocked their passage forward with a superior force outnumbering the Romans almost 2 to 1. If Andronikos wanted to progress forwards he'd need to deal with the Turks.

    The following battle, known as the Battle of Nicomedia, would be of importance to the entire history of the Romans.

    Hostilities truly began when Orhan sent roughly 300 riders down from his encampment to harass the Romans--hoping to at worst disrupt their own encampment and at best draw them off into a fight they couldn't win. The outcome was that the Romans refused to budge--they stonewalled the Turkish riders until they were forced to retreat back to their Bey without achieving much.

    Andronikos would wait until the light of day began to fade before sending out John and his 100 man escort; ordering them to return to Nicomedia and bring its garrison to aid in the battle. John himself and his men were almost caught by the Turks patrolling the area; this only avoided by the distraction caused by Artemios and his riders; who turned the event into another inconclusive skirmish that only saw both parties retreat back to their camps.

    This is how it was for the rest of the daylight, before both groups permanently retreated back to their camps. Orhan himself wrote to Andronikos--urging the Emperor to simply retreat; saying that he and his troops would allow it. Besides this being a slight snide remark at Andronikos' expense, the Emperor also knew it to be nonsense. Orhan's efforts had been to cordon off the Romans and stop them from retreating--not to drive them off.

    The following day hostilities flared up massively--as Orhan made a genuine effort to dislodge Andronikos and destroy the Emperor and his troops. It wasn't long before they were forced to abandon their camp due to a fire started by the Turks.

    The only things holding the Romans together was the fact that the Turks couldn't make full use of their riders due to a combination of Andronikos' archers and continued cavalry blows led by Artemios--the lance-equipped Roman riders doing serious damage to the Turks with each pass. To bolster moral Andronikos made a note of riding up and down the line; yelling encouragements.

    This would suddenly cease following a particularly deep attack which saw the Emperor hit by an arrow and thrown from his horse. While the wounds were comparatively minor rumour quickly spread that the Emperor had been killed--or at least mortally wounded. When this news hit the army at full force one would have expected them to break, but instead they flew into a rage and threw themselves at the Turks.

    The following enraged battle seemed to only be another inconclusive skirmish--at least until John arrived with Nicomedia's garrison. The sudden arrival of reinforcements, as well as the moral boost it further caused, saw a surge that forced Orhan to retreat--his surviving troops managing to escape due to them all effectively being riders.

    It was a major day--one made sweeter when it was realized that Andronikos himself was simply wounded, and not in any way close to death. The Romans had lost roughly 300 men--mostly infantry, while the Turks had lost around 2,000 [7]. The battle ended properly on the 11th of June.

    The Romans were forced to march back to Nicomedia after this--the city receiving the returning Emperor with as much pomp as it could muster in these trying times. Andronikos and his men needed time to recoup and reequip; especially the Emperor considering his injuries. It would take roughly two weeks for the Emperor to get back on his feet fully.

    By the 24th of June the Emperor and his forces had been reinforced by new men levied from Thrace, as well as resupplied from Chalcedon and Gallipoli. John himself would return to Constantinople to take the wheel of state back into hand, but leave most of his guard behind to aid his friend. By the time the Romans left Nicomedia for the second time they numbered around 2,500.

    The last days of the month, as well as the first 5 of the next, were spent along the coast of the Marma; clearing out the towns and little fortifications Orhan had gradually conquered with his columns; drawing in recruits and resettling unwilling Turks westward once more along each port they came across. This process only stopped at Cyzicus, which had its walls reinforced and its garrison reequipped with captured supplies, before Andronikos led his men back up northward [8].

    [1] The Ottomans had absolutely no skill with siegecraft prior to their taking of Pursa, now known as Bursa. It had been an ordeal taking around 6 years that effectively boiled down to starving the city out. This had only been possible because the Empire was too focused on fighting itself in the Civil War of 1321 - 1327. By now the Ottomans had begun producing counterweight trebuchets, but in only small numbers; which when combined with Nicaea's unique harbour allowed the city to survive a multi-decade long siege up until this point.

    [2] Andronikos III was a military man first and foremost. John Kantakouzenos himself was actually considered the representative and 'beacon' of the younger generation Andronikos III led against the older one of his grandfather. John was also responsible for the continuation and expansion in scope of the Palaiologian Renaissance, and is still considered a very important figure within Greece today for his contributions. Considering there will not be a Civil War caused by Anna of Savoy's unfair distrust of John he will instead serve as the tempering factor in John V's development; resulting in a man with a more measured approach to rule that won't rely on someone like John Kantakouzenos to run the entire administration for him.

    [3] Andronikos is a rather religious man, and this will play a large part in how the Empire diverges from the OTL, which will be explored later. Athos at this point is at the center of an, as of now, small scale revolution in Orthodox ideas with the introduction of hesychast spirituality--something which will have a larger impact, and earlier, than it did OTL.

    [4] While many rightfully hate the Venetians for their tendencies, the Genoese are unique in that they actively go for the throat at any sign of Imperial recovery. They have a history of directly attacking the Imperial Fleet when its in port and burning it--as well as threating the Empire more deeply considering the position of Galatia. These will be responded to in a rather brutal fashion by Andronikos, and his successor John V, when it does occur.

    [5] Something in need of clarification, the Romans themselves don't mind foreign 'Emperor's as a concept--contrary to what most think. While it needs the state and its leader in question to be powerful enough--or rather threatening enough to Constantinople, to be 'allowed' the title. What the Romans took issue with explicitly was anyone proclaiming themselves as Emperor over the Romans, rather than their own people, which is why the Romans played broken telephone with Charlemagne and Otto; allowing them the title of Emperor, but not Emperor of the Romans. The direct result of the rising number of Emperor's around them saw the Romans adopt the title of 'Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans' to make sure their title was still 'superior' to those Emperor's around them. A bit of classic Roman one-upmanship.

    [6] The archers used by Andronikos were known to make use of 'Lipsi' shots, or 'Taking' shots--careful volleys designed to kill or incapacitate enemies--especially riders--so that the horses would be left alive to sell later alongside their gear. It was a practice Andronikos allowed because it gave his troops spoils they could sell and earn excess money from; thus making them more loyal in the long run.

    [7] This was the first time the reigning leader of the Ottomans, and the Emperor of the Romans, ever met in battle. The Roman victory set a precedent, and the Ottomans never found the stomach to truly hammer the coast of the Marmara again after this--instead choosing eastward expansion at the expense of other Beyliks. Funnily enough this contributed to their survival, and eventual auspicious movement to Mesopotamia in the late 1300's.

    [8] Andronikos ensuring Nicaea had a supplyline from Roman Europe ensured it could last the siege longer--as well as making it clear the Romans still supported the city. This put Andronikos in the unique position of being able to meander his armies around and clean up everything behind him so that he could fully focus on Nicaea when the time came.
     
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    Part 1; 1329, July to December - Anatoli Mas
  • "How can a man so feeble call himself Emperor? Your weakness marks you out as better suited for midwifing!", "Certainly! Perhaps you, good King, will believe yourself to be in the company of a midwife as skilled as I when I sever your manhood as if it were an umbilical cord." - Exchange between Stephen II of Hungary, and John II Komnenos respectively. Likely apocryphal.

    July

    The troops under Andronikos had gotten used to the burst-marches he'd made customary by now, however now he was asking more of them. Andronikos pushed a march all the way from Cyzicus straight along the coast to Nicaea. There would be not city to rest at on the way; if Andronikos and his men wanted to rest it would be at Nicaea after relieving it of its wolf problem [1].

    By the time they were within sight of the lake-shore of Askania, the lake of Nicaea, the Roman army had grown to roughly 3,000 men from gradual recruitment and reinforcements along the line. 1,900 medium infantry, 600 medium cavalry with lances and 400 archers. Their presence was quickly found out by the Turks besieging Nicaea, as upon the sight of the Four Betas [2] on the 9th of July, 1329, saw the garrison still defending the walls let up a cheer--and like that the element of surprise was lost.

    Not that Andronikos himself expected to have one considering their victory at Nicomedia.

    His men acted quickly to his command, those ground-bound forming up with the footmen in the front and the archers within the defensive formation--the riders under Artemios once more bolting off to engage the incoming Turkish riders. The Turks were faster, and able to get right into the vicinity of the Emperor and his troops before Artemios finally clipped into their flank from the right and forced them sideways; arrows had already began to thump against the Roman shields held high to protect the archers.

    The volleys that followed were paced as one would expect--forcing the Turks to break their formation up even more than the fluidity expected of all horsearchers. This allowed the Romans a unique advantage as the day dragged on. The Turks had the clear numerical advantage--more and more riders trickling in hour after hour from the siege--but with the advantage of space the lances of the Roman riders found their targets.

    One moment there was nothing, and then the next a Turk and his horse were sent screaming to the ground with a crunch from a sudden lance-blow--again and again. When the lances broke, the riders switched to long maces--and the sound of sickening cracks was heard as the mace-heads met the heads and shoulders of the Turks.

    The numbers began to be telling however as the Turks began to hammer against the gradually advancing Roman infantry again and again--until the Romans were forced to create pointed formations to shatter the momentum of the incoming Turks.

    The coastline of Askania was becoming red with ichor as the hours dragged on, but the last push was led by Andronikos--who led his men from the speartip right through the riders; shattering their cohesion and causing a route backwards.

    By the time the Romans reached the walls of Nicaea the besiegers had fled as well--setting fire to their equipment and their camp. Andronikos didn't need to yell at his men to get them to act--and after hours of effort, even with the aid of the garrison of Nicaea, all that could be saved was three trebuchets and some accompanying camp baggage.

    The battle had weighed heavily in on the Romans, the only thing lifting their spirits being the combined notion of their victory, the loot it brought, and the exhausted adorations of the Nicaeans as they marched into the city; dragging the disassembled siege equipment and packed baggage with them.

    There was no rest for Artemios and his riders however--Andronikos gave them the task of patrolling the surrounding area in shifts, while the Romans went about burning the Turkish bodies and counting their own losses. They'd been hammered down to roughly 2,150--the major casualties being the infantry and riders. They'd lost around 250 riders, and around 600 infantry. In order to maintain cohesion those infantry who had experience with horses were given those that had been captured--rising the number of riders back up to around 400.

    Andronikos' force was now comprised of 1,350 infantry, 400 archers and 400 riders. Much of the riders equipment had to be supplemented by pieces taken from the Turks.

    Nicaea offered food and board for the Romans, but the city had been through a lot and Andronikos did not want to impose himself on it without measure; sending letters back to Constantinople noting that the blockade and siege of Nicaea had been lifted--and that they were in need of more men and supplies.

    Everything seemed eerily quiet during the following week, as the Roman patrols turned up nothing but scattered reports of movement down south. While this gave Andronikos time to assess Nicaea, and have its walls repaired as well as possible, it also gave a tension to the air. There was worry about what the Turks were up to.

    This worry increased when the supply ships reached Nicaea's harbour without reinforcements. While they had come with the requested supplies, John himself made it clear in the letter that accompanied the ships that there were simply no more available men within Roman Europe, and the men left there were barely enough to defend the territory Constantinople already had to shepherd.

    Andronikos was forced to contend with this--but the week allowed both his men to recoup, and for recruits to be drawn from areas far enough behind Roman lines to be safe, such as Chalcedon. Andronikos found himself thanking Alexios' efforts more than once, as even the basic shipping network built by the thrifty man allowed time to be shaved off of travel for his recruits--as they boarded ships in Chalcedon or Nicomedia and sailed down into the environs of Nicaea.

    Many of these men were militia for their original homes, so they weren't utterly new to warfare considering the constant raids by the Ghazi. It was for this reason that Andronikos dared to risk another week to integrate them properly into his forces--and at least give them a semblance of unity with his original surviving troops.

    That extra week however wasn't to be, as roughly 3 days into that, on the 19th of July, reports of movement around the nearby Bursa were getting too heavy to ignore [3].

    Bursa bad long been a thorn in the side of the Empire since its loss to the Turks during the chaos of the 1321 - 1327 Civil War; its location right within the vicinity of Nicaea allowing the Turks to continuously supply the siege that had come so close to taking the historic city. Rumblings from it at this point were not good.

    Andronikos and his army were forced to create a larger baggage train than usual as they left; the main reason being the escort of the disassembled trebuchets they'd recovered. The Emperor intended to harass Bursa; either to retake it and strip the Turks of their capital, or at least damage it so heavily Orhan was forced to focus on maintaining it.

    What the Romans found upon their arrival caused much confusion; Bursa was quiet. The riders Andronikos sent reported that the cities garrison was less active than expected, and parts of the city were damaged. When the Emperor and his men had dared to get close enough to take a clear look it became clear; Orhan had abandoned Bursa.

    The Ottoman Bey clearly wasn't an idiot--his actions up until then were all carefully calculated. He'd measured the risk of maintaining the core of Ottoman power right up against the border of a clearly 'awakened' Roman presence and decided it wasn't worth it; the risk was too great. The inhabitants of the city eventually opened the gates upon being threatened with siege--as the city had just barely begun to recover from the siege that had taken it only a scant few years ago.

    What met the Romans intrigued them--and impressed Andronikos. The Ottomans had built a bath, a soup kitchen, a mosque and a small center of learning in the town--the latter having been stripped alongside most of the town for its most usable supplies. The manner in which the Ottomans had taken to the town sparked a clear thought process in Andronikos--and made it clear how the Turks had managed to convert his fellow Romans into more Turkish Muslims.

    Orhan had left behind a stripped fortress city, with holes carefully tugged in its walls, and its supplies torn out--the people looked to Andronikos expectantly each hour that passed. In the end the decision was obvious; everything but the mosque would be left alone--with the mosque stripped down and reworked into a simple church, and whatever could be reused for the walls within the city was.

    The Emperor was firm with the people on the matter of religion; any who converted back, or to, Orthodoxy could stay in the city. Those that wouldn't would be taken from the city and resettled in Europe along the coast. At least a 5th of the cities male population, all of them Muslims, refused to convert--and Andronikos had to spare a contingent of 100 or so riders to lead them back to Nicaea. Several did escape along the way, but those that didn't ended up in cities such as Gallipoli and Serres.

    The Romans fully expected Orhan to attack at any point, but as days turned into weeks and Andronikos could no longer justify staying in the city he took a half-day to note the various additions the Ottomans had added to the city [4], then left behind those he planned to garrison it with. It was a measured goodbye to men he'd served with for a few years now, but they and he knew they were needed to defend this recently reclaimed fortress.

    The last sight of the reclaimed Pursa, for now, would be seen on the 3rd of August.

    August

    The march back to Nicomedia was methodical--Andronikos intending to bypass Nicaea in order to do 'rounds' around north-western Bithynia and ensure its continued clearance of Ghazi raiders. This would prove to be a mistake.

    The Emperor and his men made sure to pass along established routes so that they could crisscross towns and rest when needed, however this made them an easy target to follow at the same time.

    On the 7th of August, before reaching the environs of Nicomedia, Andronikos' scouts got back to him. Orhan was on their tail--with a force of roughly 5,000, most of which were riders, but even more unnerving was that this force also contained infantry. They outnumbered the Romans once again 2 to 1. Orhan had gathering his strength and readying an infantry force to combat the Romans--another reason to give up Pursa; to buy time.

    There was no time to make it back to Nicomedia, as Orhan was right on them and Andronikos had to make a split second decision just as the thunder of hooves upon the hills around him was heard. The Emperor chose to draw this out, and increase the chances of his men surviving while lessening Orhan's.

    Andronikos and his men moved on a marching retreat, Artemios and his riders breaking off to play chicken with the Turkish riders and buy enough time for the rest of the army to suddenly shift when they'd reached a functional dip in the land; using it as a sort of ditch to control the flow of combat. When the Four Betas went up Artemios led his men on their own fighting retreat back to Andronikos--who was quickly arranging his infantry into a uniquely jutted formation to remove the momentum offered by the Turkish riders, and buy time for his archers to pick them off with volleys.

    Andronikos gradually pulled his men into a tighter and tighter formation to protect the baggage train, and his archers; using the sudden shifts in battle the Turks relied on to ride in, fire and pull out, to suddenly jut out his men and butcher several Turkish riders before they could pull away. This tactic only worked so many times though, and eventually the Turks decided to play it from range--even if the arrows they fired hammered the Romans with a lot less potency at that range; especially while harassed by Artemios' cavalry--which Orhan and his riders simply failed to pin down long enough to clear from the battlefield.

    The battle truly began to turn against the Romans when Orhan's infantry arrived--their chants and prideful motions sapping the courage of the Romans, with only Andronikos' cheers and chants of pride at his men holding them firm when the crunch of shields occurred.

    The battle turned into a mess--as the Roman and Turkish infantry ground against each other; the Turks now and then opening gaps big enough to allow their riders to put down a Roman archer or two before the formation realigned and forced them back. Andronikos knew then that he had one chance to end this--and Orhan was right there, alongside his own Turkish riders.

    The Emperor yelled for his men to hold, for him, and for Constantinople--for Christ and God Himself, riding forwards and leading Artemios' riders directly through Orhan's formation; the lances and maces smashing a hole clear through as Andronikos went right for Orhan.

    While the skirmish that occurred is likely very apocryphal, and without real knowledge, it is known that Andronikos was badly wounded and only saved from death by a rider--sometimes this rider is identified as Artemios--breaking Orhan's shoulder with a mace blow, sending the Bey into retreat.

    Considering the Ottoman forces were comprised mostly of vassal levies, tribesmen and nobles, the flight of their Bey sapped what little courage they themselves had left. The only Turks left on the field were the infantry--the grinding of shields continuing until it could continue no more; the Turks committing a retreat so orderly the badly exhausted Romans couldn't muster the strength to chase them down.

    What became known as the Battle of Princes was the true turning point of the age--as it shattered whatever resolve the Ottomans had left to continue harassing the Romans for the next decade, as well as affirming the fact that the Marmara Coast and its environs were firmly Roman.

    Andronikos himself barely survived the ordeal, and it looked as if the Empire would have to endure a crisis just after this short period of victory when he began to deteriorate upon the armies arrival in Nicomedia. The Emperor was awake, now and then, between bouts of fever and pain--lucid enough to give basic instructions. These amounted to delegating basic defense of Anatolia to Artemios, and to sent letters to his wife and John that they were needed to run the state while he recovered.

    The Emperor did recover though--apparently a few days after his wife Anna of Savoy arrived in Nicomedia to look after him. His first day free of fever and major pain was the 16th of August. When the losses were finally tallied for the Emperor, and everything else factored in, the force of 2,150 he'd gone into battle with had been ground to dust. 1,050 or so men remained, most of which were archers. Whatever hopes of further campaigning in Anatolia were dead right then and there--all they could do was hold onto the security they'd managed to carve out.

    Artemios himself had done a rather impressive job guarding the Empire's Anatolian lands; having converted most of the surviving troops into quick-action medium cavalry which could counter the on-again-off-again Ghazi raids with brutal efficiency. Artemios relied heavily on the Komnenoi Doctrine of making use of fortified positions as hubs of mobile cavalry to intercept and break the noses of raids before they did too much damage.

    The Emperor elected to stay in Nicomedia for the rest of the month, allowing Artemios control over the situation as long as he came to terms with how things had played out. Anna herself helped him much in this time, and they grew closer as a result; her uniquely spiderweb-like mind regaling him with notions on politics that he found himself intrigued with more often than not.

    Once the Emperor was ready to leave he decreed the creation of the first frontízon, a type of soup kitchen, as well as small scale baths within Nicomedia--to reward them for their service; paying for it out of pocket with his own portion of the loot. He left with Artemios on the evening right before the 1st of September, after his wife had left by ship to return to Constantinople.

    September - November

    Following their departure from Nicomedia the Emperor and his forces took things slow--as they had prior to relieving Nicaea of its siege. It was a meandering pace, and they arrived in Nicaea once more after a few days. Once again Andronikos decreed the creation of the amenities he'd taken a liking to Pursa, once more paying out of pocket, publicly declaring it a reward for their survival of the hardships given to the Niceans by the Turks.

    It was while in Nicaea, on the 4th of September, that a messenger from Orhan was finally able to track him down. The Turkish messenger was clearly uncomfortable being in the presence of the Emperor, but after the hand-off he was allowed to walk free.

    It was a simple and functional treaty that acknowledged the state of things--neither power was in any position to continue hostilities. Status Quo. Andronikos would keep the towns and forts he'd taken along the coast as well as Pursa. The biggest note was a clause of non-interference. Both knew the other would continue to expand and grow in power when strong enough, thus they agreed on a 10 year truce, and that they wouldn't interfere with each others affairs.

    The most interesting part of the clause however was Orhan explicitly noting that raiding should not exist between the two states, and if any Turkish raiders were found within Roman lands their death or capture was fine in Orhan's mind--the same would be agreed upon for Roman raiders should Andronikos sign off on it.

    What struck Andronikos about the treaty was how basic and neutral it was--Orhan had written it with the express purpose of giving them both what they wanted and leaving a clean break without any reason for more hatred; he wasn't trying to push the Romans into an unfair treaty [5]. The treaty as it was was signed after much deliberation on the 7th of September, and reached Orhan on the 11th.

    The result was the gradual lessening of raids as well as general pressure along the border with the Turks, which would allow Andronikos and his forces to meander once more along the lands of Roman Anatolia.

    By October they had taken effective stock of all the major areas near Nicaea and Cyzicus, and had begun to carve into the issue of the areas around Abydos. The Emperor had ensured that every major settlement within Roman Anatolia had the same decree as Nicomedia and Nicaea, as well as checking their fortifications and garrisons. Much of the latter part of November was spent clearing our brigands and akin from the lands near the Karasid-Roman border, as well as restoring old and damaged forts in the area to working order; assigning the garrison duties to nearby towns and organizing the defense of the region.

    December

    As December rolled in the Emperor simply couldn't ignore Europe and Constantinople anymore--as his capital and family needed him, the Christmas Celebrations were coming up, and there were rumblings of issues in Bulgaria and Serbia. While John himself was capable of effectively running the state by himself when aided by Alexios, Andronikos knew he had to make appearances--and keep his friend in check, even though he doubted John would ever attempt anything against him [6].

    Andronikos and his forces stopped off one final time at Pursa to check its fortifications and population, before moving to Nicaea. At Nicaea Andronikos made a fateful decision that would have repercussions for later.

    On the 13th of December, 1329, Andronikos declared Artemios as Doux Anatoli; Duke of the East, giving him command over the armies, population and fortresses of almost all of Anatolia. The direct manner in which it was ascribed to him, the Doux title was non-hereditary, and carefully designed to mimic the powers of the Strategos of the old Thema; this both limited Artemios' ability to rebel but also have him the leeway he needed to get work done.

    The main things stipulated however is that the Emperor would retain full control over Chalcedon and its environs, that Artemios would make his provincial capital at Nicaea, and that he abide by the treaty with the Ottomans and not raid the Ottoman territories. Instead he was to turn what amounted to the Duchy of Nicaea into a fortified bastion of Romanitas that couldn't be dislodged.

    Andronikos left behind a force of 200 soldiers for Artemios to use as the basis of his new troops in Anatolia; just enough for what Artemios needed--before sailing from Nicaea to Constantinople on the 16th of December.

    The Emperor would spend the remainder of the year preparing for Christmas, as well as resting with his family and friends in the capital.

    [1] The Ottomans, and Turks in general, are often compared to wolves due to historical and cultural inflections. There is a measure of respect in the title given to them by the Romans; as they are warriors with their own pride.

    [2] The official icon of the Palaiologoi used on banners, besides the two-headed Eagle, is the Four Betas, which stand for "Basileùs Basiléon, Basileuónton Basileúei", or "King of Kings, Ruling over Rulers".

    [3] The Romans were noted for often relying on scouts and patrols for warfare as their power declined. The first time scouts are given major note in the histories is during the time of Heraclius, and then again during the reign of the Komnenoi and their anti-raid patrols and scouts. Andronikos himself is able to rely on scouts in Anatolia considering it had once been the home turf of the Empire, and many merchants and soldiers he's recruited during his months there have reliable information.

    [4] Andronikos in this TL has a latent skill with miniatures, and the drawings/sketches he makes forms the basis of a policy he and his successors would later make use of known as "Exypiretisi tou Laou", or "Service the People", in which the Palaiologoi would make use of the construction of soup kitchens and akin to endear themselves to their people and maintain a semblance of unity and loyalty towards the dynasty.

    [5] The direct result of this treaty is the forming of an underlying respect between the Palaiologoi and the Osmanoglu that would continue on from hereon. It was also a way for Orhan to effectively buy time to rebuild his state. His clause on raids was also a sneaky way to ensure that any raiders who dared challenge his authority by raiding were dealt with by the Romans; most of which would be nobles and other conservatives that needed to be cleared out anyway to allow for his army reforms.

    [6] John is often unjustly viewed as a traitor and power seeker. The truth of this is quite different; he was a loyal friend and highly capable administrator that when working with Andronikos helped gradually rebuild the Empire OTL. Had Andronikos not died so early, or if Anna of Savoy and her clique of allies not pushed him again and again as if he was already a traitor, then there would not have been a second Civil War. Due to neither of these occurring John will remain a loyal man to the Empire and Palaiologoi until the end of his days; greatly helping the Empire into its slow resurgence.
     
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    Basic Map Post-1329 Anatolian Stabilization
  • A very basic map I've made. Aspects of it are likely wrong, and I'm open to correction.

    For my own sanity I only showed the states that border the Empire. Maps like this aren't my thing. This is mostly here to give you all an idea of things.
     

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    Part 1; 1330, January to May - A Matter of Letters
  • "I'm surprised to find that the pen itself is just as enjoyable an activity, under the right circumstances, as the sword," - Andronikos III Palaiologos.

    January - March

    Much of January was spent cleaning up collected reports from across the remaining lands of the Empire; namely the fact that the colder than average winter that was expected to continue into February had resulted in shortfalls of food north around east Macedon and west Thrace; shortfalls John and Andronikos had to effectively beg and barter to cover from supplies within the capital; many merchants needing a commission to be willing to aid in the distribution of food southward from Constantinople.

    As the winter continued an inescapable notion was forced on the Emperor. Many of the men that had died in the battles in Anatolia had been younger than usual--considering Andronikos had drawn them from the surrounding population of Thrace with specific criteria. There were thus many orphans around the ages of 12-14, something that had to be addressed if the population of the area was to be maintained.

    With the aid of John as well as Anna, Andronikos set up a basic aid package for dozens of families. The Emperor was glad that some headway had been made on the economy by John--otherwise this wouldn't have been possible, and there would have been discontent.

    What was decided however, to offset the aid packages, was that the sons of slightly stronger stock were to be raised in court [1]. Andronikos himself knew he needed officers and loyal future soldiers if he was going to improve the mess that was the army.

    It was by mid-March, as winter was ending, that most of these boys had come to settle in Constantinople proper--the deurbanized areas of the outer city being marked out as areas to house them; Andronikos seeing an opportunity to rebuild areas of the city had fallen into ruin by giving them over to new families that would have a vested interest in maintaining them.

    April

    One thing that could no longer be ignored was the state of the forces Andronikos had at his disposal now. After the campaign in Anatolia his Hikanatoi had been reduced down to roughly half strength--most of that half having remained in Constantinople. Over 2,000 men had gone to Anatolia, 800 had come back. The system he'd devised clearly didn't work as intended, and thus it needed to be modified.

    The Emperor's first action was to disband the Hikanatoi as a body unto itself, instead simply making their entire number the official Army of the Romans, the Allagion [2]; the forces directly controlled by the Emperor.

    The 10th droungos of the Hikanatoi and its commander however, were broken off, and officially turned into the reformed city-guard of Constantinople. This was a move to allow Andronikos to march out with his full Allagion and be secure in the knowledge that his capital had some trained defenders alongside the militiamen that could be drawn from the population in times of crisis. This city guard would have its headquarters within the palace-turned-fortress of Antiochos--a former church residence converted by John while Andronikos was in Anatolia.

    These actions left him with a force of roughly 2,400 soldiers left directly under his command--a number he was not happy with. In this he began recruitment efforts; making an effort to expand the range of his recruitment out of Thrace and into eastern Macedon--relying on the fact that several men there were likely looking for work considering the short-term famine that still gripped the area from winter.

    Andronikos left the recruitment and training of the Allagion to his chosen Domestic, Theodore, a veteran from his campaign in Anatolia. By the end of April the body of the Allagion was beginning to take form, as it was carved up into the functional historic-based formation of Bandon and akin.

    Also at April's end was the clear fact that Anna of Savoy was pregnant--with the factors considered it was likely that conception occurred during her time in Anatolia tending to Andronikos [3].

    May

    Andronikos had carved out May specifically for diplomatic relations; having decided to take this move in order to make appearances as well as take weight off of his administration. The efforts made during May required the prestige only Andronikos could measure.

    The first overtures the Emperor made were to the Komnenoi of Trebizond; a breakaway state of the Empire that had existed since just before the shattering of the Empire by the 4th Crusade. The Komnenoi were an influential family in the history of the Romans--and were themselves now very influential in the Black Sea trade. Their position, as well as their heritage, left them uniquely able to understand the Roman position.

    Andronikos himself found it rather amusing that he was writing to an Emperor that held his exact same name and numerical designation, another Andronikos III. The Emperor of the Romans made an effort to tread the line between dominance and friendship with Trebizond in his letters; pressing for closer ties both militarily and trade-wise.

    Relying on Genoese routes, the Emperor was reliably able to communicate with the other Andronikos roughly once a week through ship travel; once more finding himself thankful for the gradually increasing size and power of the Imperial Navy as it provided additional protection. In this Andronikos made sure to pay the needed tolls to the Genoese--lessening the tensions between the Republic and the Empire.

    The response he received was enjoyable, as the elder Andronikos seemed rather pleased with the fact that the Romans were making an effort to reconnect with their cousins across Anatolia. Agreements were struck and decided, with the Romans agreeing to send more trade eastward to Theodoro and Trebizond itself while Trebizond would extend its fleet operations slightly more westward to undermine the Turkish beyliks as well as the Genoese.

    Coming away from this interaction, the Emperor noted the fact that the elder Andronikos measured his words in a manner that made it clear that Trebizond was an independent state from Rome--and not one to be taken lightly. Not that this mattered much, the Romans were in no position to even think of threatening one of the few non-hostile states within their range [3].

    Things closer to home however couldn't be ignored anymore though.

    Artemios, in his position as Doux Anatoli, had begun to send in gradual reports, as well as on-again-off-again requests for supplies. The Anatolian front, while stabilized, regularly dealt with Turkish raids from other beyliks [4] and was thus continuously kept in a militarized state. Artemios himself relied on a system tried and tested by the first Komnenoi; using forts and other such impediments, as well as fast-acting cavalry patrols, to keep the area of the Duchy protected [5].

    The letters that really drew Andronikos' attention at this time were from Michael III of Bulgaria. The boisterous Emperor of the Bulgarians had sent them as a courtesy to Andronikos; keeping the Emperor of the Romans informed on the goings on of the Bulgarian-Serbian tensions, as well as warning Andronikos about the fact that he was going to be mustering troops for efforts against Serbia in June.

    Combining the words of Michael with the reports his border cities and forts gave him, Andronikos had a clear picture of Serbia's growing aggression, and made note to Michael that he hoped the best for the Tsar's efforts in June and beyond. Added was the fact that Andronikos planned to get involved himself--likely the following year, once he was sure of the position of the Empire and its forces.

    Michael's follow up letters, coming in slow and steady at first but slowing to a major crawl now that he was moving to join his forming army, made it clear that he hoped to work alongside Andronikos when the time was right--and even invited the fellow Emperor to Tarnovo for a feast; after all, the Emperor's sister was his wife--once there had been success against the Serbs.

    Little did Andronikos know that while he would be in Tarnovo in the coming months, it would not be for a feast.

    [1] This was a policy used by Alexios I Komnenos--with the Emperor affectively drawing in the orphaned youth of the aristocracy and soldiery to create an officer class that would eventually come to aid the Empire during the reign of his son John II. However, many were killed during Alexios' campaigns in the Balkans and Anatolia.

    [2] The term Allagion, or Allagia, refers to what were the effective 'standing-army' units the Pronoiar. The term came to supplant 'Tagma' as the name used for the Emperor's Army in general.

    [3] John V is conceived and born earlier than he was in OTL.

    [4] Trebizond would remain an independent state, as well as an important ally, until the late 15th century.

    [5] Orhan spent much of the 10 year truce skillfully funneling his people down a path of eastward conquest. Very few raids from Ottoman lands ever reached Roman Anatolia due to Orhans efforts; unwittingly growing the respect the Romans had for the Ottomans and their policies.

    [6] By the time of Artemios' death the 'Duchy of Nicaea', which lorded over most of Roman Anatolia at this time save a few select cities run directly by Constantinople, was a militarized and fortified place; having formed a hard core that was hard to dislodge. This would serve as a vital bedrock for John V and his campaigns.
     
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    Part 1; 1330, June to December - Western Workload
  • "I sent him those men, and they ran," - Andronikos III's attributed horror to the Battle of Velbazhd.

    June

    Andronikos, in notice of the letters sent by Michael of Bulgaria, took time to measure out his own interactions with his army. Most the troops being drawn for the Allagion were themselves recruited through a third party, the Pronoiar.

    The Pronoia themselves were akin to the old Thematic units that held lands in-exchange for service, or the providing of service, they were given fiscal rights over land directly owned by the state. The biggest difference, and one that allowed Andronikos to draw from them, was the fact that there was no middle-man--the Pronoiar worked directly for the state.

    As the Pronoiar were effectively directly employed by the state, rather than a Thematic administration, Andronikos and his Domestic Theodore were able to go directly to them in order to draw troops. The result however was a very bottom-heavy army which was filled with infantry and very few cavalry; this having to be offset by the state itself paying to imburse some of these men with the horses, weapons and armour needed to fill the ranks appropriately [1].

    Andronikos would pay for the barracks of the Palaiologian Palace to be expanded in mid-June to accommodate the gradually swelling numbers of the Allagion. During this expansion the Emperor would find himself spending more time within the Boukoleon Palace along the seaside; enjoying the air and privacy provided to him and his direct court there.

    Officially, on the 19th of June, the Stratos Chrysosbull would be put into affect by the hand of Andronikos. This Goldenbull formally designated the differences between the Vasilika Allagion, and the Authentika Allagion--Imperial and Pronoiar respectively; indicting that the Pronoiar regiments were still 'active' but separate from the Emperor's own Allagion. This was simply a matter done to balance the books and make things easier to understand for the administration.

    It was on the 25th that Anna finally gave birth, roughly around the expected time; the affair being rather standard considering things. It was a healthy boy, one named after Andronikos' best friend John, and given the title of Porphyrogennetos due to being a legitimately born child of the reigning Emperor, and thus born in the purple birthing chambers of the palace.

    Chambers Anna had designed herself, alongside many other changes.

    July

    The early month was dedicated to the practice of making sure messengers were sent to important hubs such as Thessaloniki so that the Pronoiar within these areas could be properly informed of the changing circumstances; even if in functionality nothing really changed for them. The Emperor was already starting to tread on toes with his reforms--especially with his aristocracy and Genoa. While he could tolerate issues with Genoa he couldn't risk pushing things too far within his own Empire.

    The messengers who'd been sent along Thrace returned back near the end of the month with news on the fact that Michael of Bulgaria was directly making moves against Serbia. This news didn't surprise Andronikos--although he'd expected Michael to have made moves last month it seemed as if the Bulgarian Tsar had needed more time to prepare than either of them had expected.

    News was trickling in gradually as more and more messengers came back; amongst them low rumblings of discontent from the Pronoiars--more worry than anything else, but the Emperor made a note of it. He'd have to handle these deeper issues sooner rather than later--lest they fester and cause problems at the most inopportune of moments.

    As if to add worry to worry news was coming in from Galata that the Genoese merchants were acting roughly against their local Roman competition; petitions were coming in across the golden horn for the Emperor to intervene on behalf of the Roman merchants in the area. Andronikos found himself unable to react beyond sending a firm warning to the leadership of Galata that if there was continued attacks against Roman citizens--especially merchants--in Galata then there would be consequences.

    The leadership of Galata itself responded rather quickly--their answers were almost dismissive, but they noted that they would attempt to keep a tighter leash on their own merchants [2].

    August

    Andronikos had earmarked August as a month he'd dedicate entirely to Constantinople. The reason for this was that the Emperor had not spent much time purely dedicated to Constantinople within his lifetime--most of his time as a ruler being spent in either Thessaloniki or Adrianople. Despite it being a shadow of its former self Constantinople was still a unique beast that Andronikos wanted to take time to learn properly.

    This wouldn't come to pass as within the first week of the month more news began to pour in.

    First was from his sister, Theodora, Empress-Consort of the Bulgarians, which arrived on the 5th. The news left Andronikos white in the face. Michael III of Bulgaria was dead, as was most of his army--killed at the Battle of Velbazhd.

    Theodora herself spoke in fear; the boyars of the Bulgarian Empire were plotting with the King of Serbia, Stefan III, over who to put on the throne. This was a direct threat to both her, and her young son Konstanin who was only himself 12 years old [3] and thus not old enough to truly defend himself. Theodora effectively begged her brother to make the march to Bulgaria to protect her son's claim to the throne.

    Andronikos saw the opportunity as well as the obligation he had, but what truly made up his mind was the knowledge that it had been *his* mercenaries that had caused the death of Michael. They'd fled mid-battle, leaving Michael exposed [4]. With this knowledge Andronikos felt an obligation to defend Michael's throne for his nephew, and preparations were begun within the week.

    Anna was beside herself--Andronikos was leaving yet again in such a short span of time, and she worried that this time he might not even come back at all. This worry was only abated by the reassurances of both Andronikos and John. The Empress however had to have the last word in, and thus made sure to make the Domestic Theodore swear to ensure that her husband came home.

    By the 19th by the time Andronikos and his Allagion arrived at the Roman-side of the Marista river border; crossing into Bulgaria that day and making the march to Tarnovo. By that point the Emperor's forces had enlarged to around 8,000 with 2,000 additional Pronoiar units called up from Thrace along the march.

    By the time Andronikos had reached Tarnovo on the 25th, he'd already secured the surrender of the towns of Anchialus, Aetos, Messembria as well as several others within the Burgas region of Bulgarian Thrace. These acted as relays back to Tarnovo, with the boyars that still remained in the city agreeing to open the gates for the Emperor and allow him in.

    Andronikos was quick to take charge of the city, but maintained orders for his men to keep their distance from the locals and not antagonize them.

    The Emperor is said to have embraced his sister and nephew openly upon his arrival within the court at Tarnovo, and immediately asked for whatever information could be gathered on the status of the Bulgarian state.

    It wasn't pretty; Ivan Stefan, the choice chosen between the Serbs and the Bulgarian boyars, had heard of Andronikos' march to Tarnovo. The claimant had rerouted from Tarnovo to the semi-autonomous Dobruja once Andronikos had passed him, and taken it over as a base of power from which he intended to claim all of Bulgaria. Aside from Ivan the Serbs themselves were rather cross with the Romans for daring to interfere, and there were hints of movement along the Roman-Serbian border.

    Andronikos' terms were rather steep; in order to defend Konstantin's claim to the throne the young prince would need to cede the area the Romans and Bulgarians had been fighting over for generations around the area south of the Bulgarian Mountains. The Emperor was adamant about this--he wanted cities such as Philippopolis and Burgas back in Roman hands.

    Konstantin himself made a rather large impact on the proceedings; having butt in rather firmly during an argument between his mother and Andronikos. The young prince bluntly told Andronikos that he would only agree to hand over the lands specified once the Emperor had retaken Dobruja from Ivan and put an end to Ivan's attempts to claim the throne.

    Andronikos found himself impressed with Konstantin's resolve, and found no reason to argue with the position--even if Theodora had taken to dismissing him without discussion for daring to take advantage of the situation [5].

    After resupplying at Tarnovo the Emperor and his forces would depart the city on the 29th of August; taking the eastern paths into Dobruja.

    September

    The march into Dobruja was a hard one--the waterlogged terrain and the manner in which Ivan had spread out his forces as guerillas made it an utter slog; forcing the Romans to keep along the coastline. The first impediment was the city of Varna. Varna itself was an imposing location--it's citadel and port making it too important a location to ignore for the Romans. Attempts to talk the city into opening its gates failed, and the Romans were in for a siege.

    Due to their lack of siege equipment Andronikos ordered a centralized camp build directed at a single section of the walls. This camp would serve the Romans well when elements of Ivan's disseminated army attempted attacks to disrupt the Romans in their efforts. It took roughly a week and a half to produce enough equipment to start damaging the city at Andronikos' order [6].

    After a day and a night of bombardment the people of Varna threw open the gate and accepted a Roman garrison of 200, having given up on the 14th. The Romans would rest within the city for three days, deconstructing their siege equipment and taking count of their losses--which were comparatively few considering their tactics.

    The Emperor would leave the city on measured terms on the 17th, and begin the march to Balchik, hoping to capture the city within the month.

    This march would be interrupted just before Andronikos and his armies reached the walls of Balchik by Bulgarian messengers, these messengers having trekked the distance with important information.

    Stefan III was invading.

    Andronikos was forced to think on his feet once more, as he had in Anatolia. The decision he came to was to split off his 2,000 Pronoiar units, and hand command of them over to his Domestic Theodore; having them stay in Dobruja to continue the fight there. Theodore himself was against this idea, as he still had the promise he made to Anna in his mind; but he did not disobey the orders of his Emperor.

    The Emperor and his army would march back to Varna, reclaiming the 200 man garrison, and leaving behind Theodore and the 2,000 Pronoiars--alongside the siege equipment they'd built.

    It would take another half-week to pass back into Roman territory, with the Emperor and his forces taking the coastal route and passing by Burgas, before they finally stopped at Adrianople to resupply on the 21st.

    Once the march was on again the Emperor continued to get a slow trickle of news from Macedon. The biggest news was that one of the more powerful Pronoiar of Macedon, John Sfyrios, had called to arms many of his fellow Pronoiar to defend Macedon. The trigger for this hadn't just been Serbia's invasion; which has continued to pour south after failing to take Ohrid in early September--but also the timely invasions of Epirus and Athens; as both had sensed weakness and gone for the kill.

    Andronikos increased the pace of his armies march in order to get to Thessaloniki and resupply for what he predicted to be a long campaign full of skirmishes. Upon their arrival at the Second City of the Empire, the Emperor was met with the news that Ohrid had finally fallen upon the return of the Serbian army. Stefan III was himself continuing his efforts southward; with calls for aid coming from both Prosek and Prilep as both were being besieged by contingents of Stefan's forces.

    The Emperor took the time he had to write to Sfyrios; declaring it the duty of the Pronoiar to defend Kastoria and its environs from incursions from the Epirot's and Latins.

    Andronikos didn't even wait for a response, and as soon as he was sure his army was prepared he and his forces marched northward along the Vardar river; choosing to handle Prosek's defense first. The reason for this choice lay in the fact that of the two cities in need Prosek was the furthest from Ohrid--and thus unlikely to have a large presence of Serbs.

    This decision would prove sound when on the Romans routed a force of roughly 2,000 Serbians outside the walls of Prosek--forcing them to leave behind their equipment as they fled. Andronikos would order this equipment packed up and dragged within Prosek's walls; settling in his army for the next three days--as was quickly becoming custom [7].

    October

    The Emperor took the ensuing three days to resupply his army as best as he could, as well as set-up a basic siege-train for the captured equipment. Once this was done the army was yet again on the march; crossing the Vardar river by the 5th under heavy caution, before crossing their way into the environs of Prilep. Andronikos would find out that he arrived too late to catch Stefan III and his army--as the Serbian King had decided to pull back from the siege of Prilep upon hearing of Prosek's relief.

    Andronikos himself would take a day and a night to check over Prilep's fortifications, before leaving the city on the morning of the 7th content with the size of the garrison and the strength of the walls.

    News that the Emperor got from the locals informed him that Stefan III had moved southward against Bitola--the only city keeping the Serbs from being able to punch down on the inner-Macedonian cities of Edessa and Veria.

    This forced Andronikos to march his forces once more; this time their pace quickened in order to catch the King before he could flee again. Upon the arrival of the Emperor and his forces however it was clear that Stefan III was still embroiled with the siege of Bitola; having gathered up his forces into one cohesive army once more in order to pose a viable threat to Andronikos.

    Scholars debate the reason Stefan put this all together--although the common idea is that the Serbian King lured Andronikos down to him in order to give him time to properly reconstitute his dispersed army, as well as draw the Roman Emperor into a repeat of the Battle of Velbazhd.

    The battle that ensued, known as the Hammering at Bitola, was anything but a repeat of Velbazhd.

    The Roman land-based troops proved far more willing to put up a fight than those of Michael III. This willingness to hold their ground bought Andronikos the time he needed to hammer and route Stefan's riders with his own--with the Emperor breaking off a portion of his force to continue chasing these fleeing Serbs while he returned back to aid his infantry [8].

    The unique line-flexing tactics of the Romans forced the Serbians facing them into odd angles; continuously throwing them off balance as well damaging their cohesion. This gradually sapped their strength, and allowed for the returning Andronikos and his riders to make continuous passes with each angle--causing damage to any Serbians who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    There simply came a point where the Serbians and their King could take no more, and a route ensued. The fight had exhausted the Roman ground troops--and it was only Andronikos and his riders that were able to chase after the fleeing Serbs.

    But, as for the ground troops, there came a point where the riders and their Emperor could no longer keep up their pursuit. Instead the Emperor regrouped with the detached riders he'd sent out earlier and reunited with his army outside of Bitola.

    The Emperor took stock of his losses once the field was quiet; the infantry having taken the brunt of the damage and at least 200 men had died. The Serbians by contrast had lost roughly 2,500 or so men; most of which had died during the route. Andronikos bluntly ordered them looted for excess equipment, then given as proper a burial as was possible under the circumstances.

    The Romans would spend four rather than three days recuperating at Bitola. This was down as much to Andronikos checking the cities fortifications and getting a handle on it as it was to the exhaustion of his forces. The Emperor knew he couldn't ignore Epirus or Thessaly any longer--and decided to gamble with the fact that he'd hammered the Serbs enough for them to flee to the only major city they'd taken in Ohrid.

    Leaving a garrison of 500 behind in Bitola, Andronikos effectively turned the city into the new temporary Ohrid upon his departure 12th of October.

    Andronikos and his army would march south until reaching Larissa--the border city of Roman Thessaly and Latin Thessaly, therein the Emperor would meet Sfyrios for the first time. The two immediately struck up a friendship; with Sfyrios being of the same generation as Andronikos, and having served him during the War of the Two Andronikos' what felt like a lifetime ago for the two men.

    It would be agreed there that Sfyrios would continue his efforts against Thessalian raids. It was also at Larissa that Andronikos punished Stephen Gabrielopoulos, a magnate who had effectively been given control over Roman Thessaly. Gabrielopoulos had failed to stem any sort of tide from the Latins, and was thus sacked; his lands in Thessaly and Kastoria confiscated by the state until something could be decided.

    Gabrielopoulos, a sickly man by this point, begged that Andronikos spare some of his lands for his heirs as well as allow him to retire peacefully to a monastery. The Emperor couldn't bring himself to destitute the whole family over the failings of its patriarch; thus he separated Gabrielopoulos lands in Thessaly amongst his heirs, and allowed the sickly man to retire quietly.

    Andronikos would depart Larissa on the 14th with only a force of cavalry; enlarged with men from his infantry which had served with him in Anatolia being given horses. This force roughly amounted to 2,300. The Emperor had made this decision because the Despot of Epirus, John II Orsini, had relied on a small force of raiders for his efforts--and if reports were to be believed he was already on his way back to his lands around southern Epirus.

    The Emperor and his men took a heavy pace, only stopping scantly along the way to rest. With time those of his riders which had been assigned as scouts came back with news that they'd spotted the troops of John II himself trying to pass through the lands passes around Roman Northern Epirus.

    In the late day of the 15th the Emperor and his riders managed to catch up with Orsini and his retinue--and while they put up a skilled fight in defense of their lord they were eventually overwhelmed. Orsini himself would be crippled when his horse was killed under him as he attempted to flee; with the Despot being captured and tied to the horse of one of Andronikos' officers.

    The Emperor and his men would ride southward with Orsini in tow for the next day and night, coming upon Arta on the 17th of October. Due to Orsini's lingering unpopularity as a Latin ruling Romans in former Roman lands the gates were opened when the garrison was notified of Orsini's capture, and shown the crippled Despot for surety.

    With the fall of Arta it only took another three days of marching up and down what had once been the Despotate of Epirus to annex the remaining cities. For the first time since 1205 there was no longer a rival state within the Epirus region that could prove itself a threat to Roman dominance of the region. Orsini would die shortly afterwards of his wounds; his heirs imprisoned within Arta.

    As had become practice by now, the Emperor chose someone within his own army to be placed at the head of the newly conquered territory [9]. Andronikos chose the commander of his cavalry, as he had with Artemios in Anatolia, a skilled a shrewd man around Andronikos' age named Michael (hereafter known as Michael of Arta).

    The Emperor designated Michael as Governor of the Governorship of Arta--the entire southern Epirus territory, with Arta at its core; leaving the new Governor with 200 men handpicked from the cavalry.

    On the 28th of October the Emperor and his remaining men left the Governorship; having to cut through the lower passes back into Thessaly and then to Larissa, which they arrived at on the 2nd of November.

    November

    Coordinating with Sfyrios upon arriving back at Larissa, it became obvious that Sfyrios had managed to keep a rather tight lid on Thessaly while Andronikos had been away--much to the gratitude of the Emperor. With Andronikos back proper coordinated efforts could be managed, and after some preparations the Emperor and Sfyrios led their combined forces south--which numbered roughly around 8,000 or so.

    The first target of their efforts was Velestino, directly southward of Larissa. Velestino itself didn't put up much of a resistance upon seeing the arrival of the Emperor--throwing open their gates and allowing the Emperor to check through the garrison, until departing on the 6th.

    Next to fall was Demetrias, further southward. Demetrias put up a decent struggle--able to be resupplied by sea throughout the weeklong affair that was the siege. A week was all the city could take of being bombarded by Andronikos' trebuchets before throwing open their gates. The Emperor was forced to replace their garrison with men from his own army--as those within Demetrias refused to fight for him; roughly 200 men being left behind to defend the city on the 13th as the Emperor and his men marched off.

    The nearby city of Halmyros surrendered itself as soon as the Emperor's banner was seen--traders from Demetrias informing them of the Emperor's tactics by the time Andronikos reached its walls. After an inspection of the garrison and the fortifications the Emperor left on the 15th, and continued on westward deeper into Latin-held territory.

    The Romans would cross the Pinios river on the 16th, and arrive at the city of Domokos later that day in preparation for a siege. Domokos, due to its proximity to the Latin capital of Thessaly, Neopatras, refused to negotiate.

    Andronikos and his men were forced to build a fortified camp as raiding parties from both Domokos and Neopatras attacked the Romans on and off as the day dragged on--forcing the Romans to waste time prepping things within the fortified camp. In one of the many skirmishes that erupted as the Latins made their hardest attempt at throwing the Romans off, the son of the Vicar-General of Athens and Neopatras, William Fadrique, would be slain.

    This death effectively caused the end of the raids, and the Romans took Domokos on the 23th of November. As with Demetrias the Emperor was forced to leave behind a garrison, leaving the city on the 25th and marching towards Neopatras.

    Neopatras was the core of Latin control in Thessaly. While the Romans simply referred to it as Latin Thessaly the Latins officially dubbed it as the Duchy of Neopatras, so important was the city.

    Andronikos set up a siege of the city much as he had Domokos--but the back of the Latins in the area was broken. The Emperor detached Sfyrios from his forces on the 26th, alongside his men, ordering the Pronoiar to defend the newly claimed border.

    Neopatras would hold out until the 29th--the excessive damage done to the cities palatial district through concentrated fire finally breaking the frayed nerves of the city. It seemed a good moment for the Emperor, as the day before Sfyrios had routed Alfonso Fadrique's attempts to cross into now-Roman Thessaly; permanently putting to bed the idea of a Latin Thessaly.

    With the return of Sfyrios from this however came the news that Stefan III was causing more trouble for the Empire, and that he had almost taken Bitola due to the absence of the Emperor and his men. Thus on the 1st of December the Emperor made to leave, but not before proclaiming the Governorship of Thessaly, and placing Sfyrios at its head as a reward for his loyal service.

    The Pronoiar units under Sfyrios' command would be given the choice of continuing their service or returning back home to their lands in Macedon--many would return home. With his position confirmed, Sfyrios would take to his duties quickly, without much time to say goodbye to Andronikos, making his capital of Domokos due to its more centralized location.

    December

    Andronikos and his men would arrive at Servia on the 3rd of December, preparing to rest and resupply as was standard. This arrival also saw the Emperor receive the news and letters that had piled up while he had been focused on central Greece; Andronikos having informed Thessaloniki via messenger to send along anything from there to Servia.

    The news he got was mixed, but the good outweighed the bad.

    Theodore with the aid, of the Bulgarian commander Peter and his retinue, had pinned down Ivan in Constanja in October, and the Bulgarian pretender had been killed trying to lead a sally from the city when the siege seemed lost for the defenders. This had seen Konstanin confirmed as Tsar--with a regency council led by his mother Theodora--and Doburja firmly put back under the control of the Bulgarians. If the letter was to be believed, then Theodore himself was staying with his army in the captured cities of Burgas in order to maintain Roman interests there until Andronikos had time to officially put together a treaty with Konstantin.

    The bad news however came from John at the capital; the Genoese were acting up yet again and starting to interfere with Roman shipping. Apparently Alexios himself had to get involved and change the routes of the navy to avoid running into the Genoese militarily, but still allow the Romans to protect their merchants. Andronikos himself wrote back; giving John free-reign to attempt to resolve the issue.

    Andronikos couldn't allow himself to be distracted.

    The Emperor and his army would depart Servia on the 7th, having taken an extra day to ensure the siege equipment was ready for transport, and in large enough numbers. They would arrive at Kastoria on the 8th for a quick resupply, before departing the following morning on the 9th, the march to Bitola a straight shot from there.

    It was in the late hours of the 10th that Andronikos and his forces came upon Bitola; a skirmish ensuing that lasted roughly 4 hours between the surprised besiegers and the Emperors forces. The Serbians put up a good fight, and managed to ring around Andronikos' line to damage pieces of his siege equipment before retreating into the darkness.

    This state of affairs forced the Emperor and his army to stay at Bitola longer than they'd intended--as the Emperor originally wanted to simply check over the fortifications and garrison before leaving. Instead he and his men had to discard the equipment that was too damaged for use and integrate the captured pieces the Serbians had left behind.

    The Emperor and his men were on the march again only by the morning of the 9th, and encountered heavier resistance from Serbian skirmishers the closer they got to Ohrid--with the formation they were forced to use to protect the siege equipment slowing them down to a crawl. It would be midday on the 11th that the Four Betas came into view of Stefan III and his defenders at Ohrid.

    The Serbian King was determined to hold onto this fortress at least; as it could serve as a bridgehead into Roman Macedon should he be able to gather enough strength to do so later.

    Andronikos himself was forced to confront the fact that he couldn't use his tried and tested tactics; Ohrid was too important to damage internally like he had the opposing cities in Bulgaria, Epirus and Thessaly. The Emperor had to settle for selective bombardment--and that only proved to draw things out.

    As winter truly set in, and days turned to weeks, the Romans were once more forced to build a truly fortified camp--both to combat regular Serbian sallies and to defend from the cold.

    By Christmas both sides were exhausted, but Andronikos refused to give up the siege despite being pressed by his officers to at least consider it. Instead both Andronikos and Stefan agreed to a Christmas truce of sorts, lasting from the 25th until the 28th. There were reports that Stefan had managed to get a messenger through on the eve of the 29th.

    The siege itself continued to drag on. It was only by the 4th of January that it would end. The population of Ohrid was sick of it; their homes were being destroyed and the Serbians were gobbling up their food--even as their numbers gradually dwindled with each failed sally.

    Thus it was that on the 4th both rulers agreed on an armistice. Stefan and his remaining forces evacuated Ohrid in the midday, and were fully gone by the night. Andronikos and his men would wait until noon of the 5th to enter Ohrid after deconstructing their camp.

    All that met the Emperor and his men were solemn faces and cold winds.

    [1] This system of drawing men from the Pronoiar to fill the armies formed the backbone of the military Andronikos himself would make use of. It would also serve to gradually weaken the Pronoiar themselves as they could no longer rely on having men to fill their own retinues. This would allow John V to put an end to the Pronoiar practice during his early reign.

    [2] This would prove to be the first strike against the Genoese in the eyes of Andronikos, with the Genoese at Galata proving themselves obstinate and unwilling to fully listen to the Emperor. This would prove to be their downfall in short measure.

    [3] We don't actually know the names or ages of any of Theodora and Michael's children--only that they couldn't have been older than 12. Ivan Stefan, the elder half-brother of these children, was given the Emperorship of Bulgaria through a conspiracy between the Boyars and Stefan III of Serbia OTL, thus these children faded from history.

    [4] This knowledge would prove to be the final nail in the coffin of Roman Mercenary armies. Never again would the Romans make use of armies that were made up of mostly mercenaries; fearing the havoc they could cause.

    [5] Andronikos' relationship with Theodora never recovered after this--as she saw this opportunism as a direct slight to her, considering she had been the one to request his aid. Upon her death she was buried in Tarnovo at her own wish; having never returned to Roman lands let alone Constantinople.

    [6] This tactic was put together by John II Komnenos during his various military efforts. It involved badly damaging the city within the walls instead of the walls itself in order to preserve his army and get through sieges more quickly.

    [7] Andronikos III grew to rely on fast movement, with interspliced periods of rest, in order to hammer opponents before they had a chance to settle in properly. The speed of his army and the way he was able to quickly make decisions, and thus moves, often caught his enemies entirely off-guard around this time due to the fact that they'd grown use to the sluggish pace of previous his predecessor Andronikos II.

    [8] Command of the Serbian cavalry was attributed to Stefan III's young son, the later Stefan IV Dusan. It is speculated that his failures here gave him the inherent avoidance of pitched battles that would characterize his whole reign. This battle also served to sever Dusan's connection with his father, and would see Dusan return to Serbia in order to gather enough support to depose his father. This deposition would succeed in 1331.

    [9] A practice developed by Andronikos due to the need for skilled military men to keep a lid on the lands he held, or reclaimed, placing skilled officers at the head of important or risky territories ensured the control of the area due to the loyalty bred between the Emperor and his men, as well as the general military skill of the officer. While it did cause definitely friction between the aristocracy and the Emperor, the blunt fact was that they could do little against a skilled military man.
     
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    Part 1; 1331, January to April - Trouble with Merchants
  • "I'm quickly finding it hard to get a moments peace around here; wouldn't you say the same men?" - Andronikos III.

    January

    Solemn and cold faces met the Emperor and his men as they marched into Ohrid on the 5th of January; both the Emperor and his men as well as the citizens of Ohrid were exhausted. Both had been through this war and back twice now--although Andronikos and his men were clearly the more weary.

    The Emperor ordered that whatever resources his army could spare, buy or sell, were to be committed to--and made a note to pick out the most exhausted men of his army to leave behind as the renewed garrison; their days of marching with him were for now over.

    Andronikos and his men rested for the three days they were accustomed to, as they simply couldn't get themselves to sit still any longer than that. In this the Emperor knew they had to make another pass of the area--to clear up loose ends and akin. He carved up a portion of whatever spoils were his between his men to keep them focused with a bit of a donative--before they marched out on the 9th of January.

    They winded down from Ohrid to Bitola, then to Kastoria. Upon reaching Servia the Emperor had received the news of the escape of one of Orsini's sons. Andronikos himself didn't even bother to learn the man's name--all he knew was that he was moving up into upper Epirus to escape his Governor of Arta and perhaps ferment a rebellion.

    No, now that wouldn't do.

    Unluckily for the would-be-rebel he and his escape-aids effectively ran right into Andronikos and his forces on the 12th while trying to cross to Butrint. The Emperor had very little sympathy for the man, and neither did his tired men. Everyone they caught--including the fleeing heir, were simply killed and dumped into a mass grave after whatever belongings they had were looted.

    With this chapter closed, they marched to Arta, being welcomed by Michael of Arta and the population with about as much fanfare as could be mustered considering the circumstances. The Emperor insured his men were tended to properly himself--taking a moment to inspect the city and figure out exactly how that would-be-rebel had escaped.

    It had been as simple as the man having supporters in the city--supporters who'd either fled with him or had been purged by Michael shortly afterwards. It didn't matter anymore.

    Andronikos and his men would leave Arta on the 16th, passing through Thessaly and resting at Domokos for a day and night. The Emperor and the Governor, Sfyrios, would spend some time together--measuring the border with Latin-held Greece for that time, before Andronikos and his men were forced to leave by the specifics of things on the the 17th.

    The Allagion and its Emperor would then march for Bitola once more, reaching it on the 19th. Knowing what he did now the Emperor felt very uncomfortable with the border, and thus upon speaking with the garrison commander of Bitola, one Manuel (hereafter known as Manuel of Bitola), the Emperor decreed the creation of a third Governorship--one of Bitola, which included the surrounding environs and cities of Upper Macedon--Ohrid, Prilep and Maglen as well as more.

    The new Governor took to the task with a unique purpose, and began to coordinate the exhausted forces of the area with a unique vigor which seemed to inspire his men.

    These events put Andronikos' mind at enough ease; with the Emperor believing that with the three Governorships within his far-western domains there was very little chance of it being overtaken.

    He and his men would arrive in Thessaloniki on the 22nd, after passing by Voden on their route. They would be welcomed with a soft fanfare--as was to be expected at this point. It seemed the whole of the Balkans had absorbed how tired the Emperor and his men were.

    Andronikos would take the rest of the month to give his army time to recuperate--as well as to receive and give out letters.

    It seemed the situation with Galata was getting worse, and the Genoese were using their control of the Upper Aegean to interfere with both the Roman merchants and its navy.

    There was also the matter of Bulgaria. The Emperor's men had won their 'prize' of land--which included the important areas of Burgas and Philippopolis, but it was yet to be claimed and properly reorganized as a part of the Empire. That would have to be rectified next month.

    February

    February began as one might expect--with the Emperor and his men forced to shake off any chance of continuing their rest for now. The Empire needed them--and yet it was a hard task to finally get up and leave the city.

    It was by the 3rd of February that Andronikos and his men would depart Thessaloniki--taking the battered roads; stopping first at Amphipolis, then Komotini before finally coming to a stop at Adrianople. There the Emperor and his men were met with more fanfare than prior--as Adrianople and Andronikos had history [1]. Thus they rested, from their arrival on the 6th until the early morning of the 8th, before they departed once more.

    The Emperor left behind his most tired and spent troops--only taking with him his most loyal and fit riders--numbering roughly 500 men. Those left behind would eventually depart from Adrianople and return to Constantinople on the 11th by themselves--with the prior permission of Andronikos of course.

    It was on the 10th that Andronikos and his retinue arrived at Burgas, and reunited with the rested and victorious troops of Theodore, his Domestic. It is said the Emperor and his Domestic embraced--and regaled each other with stories from their time apart. Andronikos quickly learned that the Bulgarian commander, Peter, who had aided Theodore in their victory had been forced by duty to keep to Dobruja--making an effort to fully pacify the area and stamp the seal of the young Tsar Konstantin II into the lands.

    Once all was said and done the Emperor and Theodore, their combined forces numbering around 2,300, departed Bursa on the morning of the 12th and made towards Philippopolis. On the way they secured the official hand-over of Provat, Klokotnitsa, as well as the Bachkovo Monastery--with Provat and Klok's garrisons willing to stay behind and come into the service of the Emperor.

    It was upon reaching the environs of Philippopolis Andronikos would be intercepted by the Bulgarian bureaucrat George. George had fled Philippopolis in fear for his life--as George himself had been put in-charge of organizing the hand-over of the large and important city. As it turned out the Bulgarian majority as well as the cities garrison opposed this. Konstantin's secondary officials barely batted and eye, and simply left--with tensions growing as George and the Roman minority tried to push for the honouring of the treaty.

    These Romans were exiled forcibly--their property taken; those that resisted being killed. These exiles would also come into the presence of the Emperor--forcing the Emperor and his men to encamp and make preparations. It was only by the 14th that the Emperor managed to secure the acknowledgment of Klokotnitsa that it would take in the few thousand or so refugees on a temporary basis.

    The Emperor fully intended to take Philippopolis in short order--even if he had to leave the city within the walls a smoking ruin.

    It was the 17th when Andronikos and his force arrived outside of the walls, having taken time to double back to Adrianople and secure siege equipment [2]. The Bulgarians within the city were adamant in their refusal the Emperor's efforts--having came to the conclusion that their Tsar would help them.

    This delusion would continue even as the Emperor's trebuchets began to bombard the cities districts behind the walls. Andronikos wanted the city for its name and walls--not the people inside.

    Even when half the city had been reduced to rubble on the morning of the 21st they still held firm--and seemed to have been proven right when a force of 2,000 riders arrived bearing the Tsar's banner. Their moral shattered past rock bottom when it became obvious they were not here to fight the Romans--but to parley.

    It was Peter, who had been assigned the mission to speak with Andronikos after Konstantin had heard from his officials what was going on--Peter's relationship with Theodore the driving reason for his assignment. It quickly became clear that Peter was there to hand the Emperor a blank writ to do as he wished with the situation--as Konstantin well-knew he had the Emperor to thank for the stabilization of his realm.

    It would be on the morning of the 22nd, when the notion that no aid was coming finally set in, that the gates of Philippopolis opened to allow the Emperor in. What greeted him was a defeated population--one which he held no sympathy for.

    He separated them up--taking all the surviving young and strong, alongside their families, and deporting them under Theodore's guard. They were destined for Anatolia as settlers [3]. Those remaining dregs were sent with Peter back to Bulgaria.

    By the 25th the city was empty, and by the 26th it had been repopulated somewhat by the return of George and the exiled Romans--who agreed to form their own militia to temporarily defend the city as well as to create a unit to coordinate the rebuilding of the city. Roughly 100 of Andronikos' own retinue agreed to stay behind and integrate into the city and provide a trained backbone to things.

    Within this lull the Emperor was hit with letters from John back at Constantinople--and left clenching his fist in a mixture of sheer rage and exhaustion.

    Galata had been rebuffing every single one of John's attempts to reconcile things--and Roman merchants themselves weren't making things any easier; only pissing off the Genoese merchants there further by trying to angle in on the market while they appeared distracted.

    Andronikos' men shared his anger--they wanted to rest, and yet here were the damned Latin's making a fuss. It seemed like clockwork.

    Upon their return to Constantinople on the 2nd of March there was a grimness in their motions--a drive to have this done with.

    March

    Andronikos and his men entered the city of Constantinople to the acclaim of the population--as his efforts had been capitalized on by both John and his wife Anna for propaganda purposes; pushing the narrative of the Empire's next great Warrior-Emperor. Andronikos himself found it displeasing--he was their Emperor yes, but he cared very little for pomp and circumstance.

    His troops would be dismissed to their barracks to meet up with their comrades, while the Emperor and Anna locked themselves away in the Boukoleon to be alone with their son, as well as each other.

    The Emperor would leave the Boukoleon on the 5th with a dark determination writ on his face.

    After meeting with John that afternoon a letter was sent to the Genoese of Galata--and it was blunt in it's motions;

    - The Genoese had violated their treaty by fortifying their quarter--that had been ignored in favour of the Genoese due to friendship; this was now at an end. The Galata's fortifications were to be torn down and never rebuilt.

    - The Genoese had damaged Roman trade by their efforts to undercut their ships and physically and financially assault the Empire's merchants--they would pay a sum of currency as recompense.

    - The Genoese were to hand over the ringleaders of this feud so that they may be judged by the Emperor for their crimes against the mutual peace and the Empire itself.

    The Genoese response? The Romans were met with the burning hulks of a portion of the Imperial Fleet anchored in the Golden Horn on the morning of the 7th.

    Thankfully for the Romans Andronikos himself had been worried about this, especially after prodding from Alexios--thus most of the fleet was harboured within other seaports of Constantinople--or out on a hasty patrol. By midday the remaining fleet had been recollected into a cohesive force and pointed right at Galata--cutting it off with a functional blockade.

    They'd struck out thrice.

    Calls for negotiations quickly reached the Emperor's ears--but he and his council were of a firm mind on this; the Genoese had to be put in their place, and thus all letters were burnt upon arrival, left unread--the blockade tightened to prevent messages getting out; although they inevitably would.

    On the morning of the 8th Andronikos mustered his men--picking out roughly 2,000 of those willing to fight for the Empire and put an end to things. While he had to dip into his pockets once more to give them a donative--this donative wasn't required, it was a courtesy, and inspired great loyalty in those men who chose to follow him.

    Andronikos and his forces would depart Constantinople on the 10 onboard converted merchant ships--these ships donated by the willing Roman merchants, who themselves wanted to see Genoa toppled from power within the region. Their target was the upper Aegean isles.

    Limnos itself would be taken without even a fight on the part of the Genoese. The Romans of Limnos had butchered their Genoese garrison, and given themselves back over to the Romans on the 12th. From this island base Andronikos and his ships resupplied and reequipped, before moving towards Lesbos on the 14th.

    Andronikos and his invasion fleet met with resistance, as the Lord of Chios himself--Martino Zaccaria, led a cobbled together fleet against the Romans at the Battle of the Waves. Andronikos lost a portion of his men, roughly 100, following the sinking of some of his vessels--but Zaccaria's fleet was subdued. Martino himself managed to flee back to Chios--leaving several ships to be captured and repaired, as well as Lesbos itself undefended.

    Just as the first verse had gone with Limnos, the second went with Lesbos. The population revolted--and the Genoese garrison was forced to retreat from the island under cover of night. Thus on the morning of the 17th the Emperor fully reclaimed the island, and consolidated his position.

    The Emperor himself was energetic--quickly assigning locals to form a militia and govern themselves in the name of the Emperor, before resupplying and departing. He knew he couldn't let up the pressure--hammering minor fleets patrolling around Chios before the Genoese even had time to firmly react.

    Martino was forced to face the music when on the 21st, after 2 days of trying to hold out, the rebellion of the native Roman population became all too obvious. He sued for peace with Andronikos--and the two would meet face to face in Martino's keep on Chios on the morning of the 22nd, with the Genoese nobleman cowed quickly by the blunt tones of the Roman Emperor before him.

    While Martino tried to argue his position and offer his fealty--saying that he hadn't been involved with the whole fiasco in Galata, the Emperor responded by metaphorically hanging the noble by the own rope he'd given out. Martino had violated the lease for Chios by adding to its fortifications, and thus was no longer entitled to it.

    The noble was allowed to leave with his retinue on a few of his own ships on the 23rd--while the rest of his fleet was captured, refurbished and repurposed.

    It would be on the 24th that news would reach Andronikos by a ship sent from Anatolia; the Genoese relief fleet had arrived--simply passing by the recaptured upper Aegean isles and going straight for the Bosporus. The Imperial Fleet had been forced to scatter to avoid losses--and had regrouped in Burgas by the 23rd.

    The Genoese were now patrolling the whole breadth of the upper Aegean hoping to capture the Emperor--as they'd heard by now that he'd departed to recapture the isles. Thus, having no other option, Andronikos would stay put on Chios--coordinating with Artemios in Anatolia by fast carrier ships--who in turn coordinated with Constantinople by ships via the Black Sea ports of Anatolia and Europe.

    By the 3rd of April a plan had been reached, one which would place Constantinople back where it belonged in the pecking order.

    April

    On the morning of the 3rd Andronikos and his fleet would depart--ensuring to choreograph their presence in order to draw Genoese attention. It was thus that on the 5th everything would fall into place; the Second Battle of the Waves.

    The ships under Andronikos were barely able to hold their lines against the Genoese--and just when it seemed as if the Emperor's own flagship would be send to the bottom of the Aegean, that's when Alexios himself arrived with the Imperial Fleet. With a redoubled effort, Andronikos took full charge of his own ships; the Genoese ground to dust between the two forces.

    Andronikos himself was wounded twice--once to the head by splinters from a collision, which caused a cut--and again by two arrows fired from Genoese bowmen which pierced his armour around his left shoulder and shoulder blade.

    But the Romans had been victorious--and Alexios had made a fine showing of himself; coordinating his forces with a noted leadership. Several Genoese ships and prisoners were captured, with the Romans firmly returning to Constantinople on the 6th.

    The Emperor didn't allow himself a moment to rest from his wounds--and immediately sprung into demanding Galata's surrender. He was struck with deja vu when Galata refused any attempt at treating with the Emperor--seeming to hope for Genoese reinforcements [4].

    Alexios busied himself flamboyantly paying out of pocket for the refurbishment of the fleet once more--angling for the position of full leadership over it, which Andronikos gave him. The delighted Alexios would take to the task of patrolling the Aegean and Bosporus against the Genoese with relish--enjoying the idea of independent glory from the Emperor.

    Andronikos himself, now knowing the Genoese wouldn't back down within Galata fully committed to its siege--constructing siege works across from it which could be directly supplied from nearby Constantinople. It was on the 9th that Galata began to be bombarded--with the Emperor localizing fire to the outer districts first before working it gradually backwards.

    A large dent was put in the siege on the 15th when a Genoese raid managed to shatter most of his siege equipment, but Andronikos simply ordered them rebuilt or replaced--and made to look undefended enough to draw the raiders again. These raiders were ambushed by Roman riders and spearmen and hacked to pieces--and Andronikos made a big show of showering their bodies over the fortresses of Galata before properly returning to besieging the city.

    The population finally cracked on the 19th, and opened the gates. Andronikos allowed those that fled to live--funneling them into Constantinople, before he and his men invaded the city. While the Romans met losses, the city was brutally pacified by the 22nd.

    Upon the note that Galata was finally silent, Andronikos is said to have looked relaxed for the first time in 4 years.

    [1] Adrianople will always be a sort of backbone city to the Emperor and his efforts, as it was his capital for a good while prior to his coronation. The fact that Andronikos always came back to the city during his campaigns in Europe--as well as made at least some sort of donative to the city each year--kept its population behind him.

    [2] Throughout his 4 years of campaigning the Emperor learned to keep caches of siege equipment in important 'route' cities, which he would always be bound to be able to return to if needed. The major cities to hold these caches as of this point were Thessaloniki and Adrianople in Europe and Nicaea in Anatolia--although the Duchy of Nicaea made use of this cache when the Emperor himself wasn't present, when needed.

    [3] Upon their firm arrival in March of 1331 these forced settlers were irritable at first--but the charisma and persistence of Artemios eventually hammered them into effective settlers. They would become one of several core populations in Roman Anatolia that would gradually interbreed with, and be absorbed, by the native Roman population. They would provide skilled light horsemen for decades.

    [4] No noted Genoese reinforcements came from their Black Sea colonies due to the fact that they wished to avoid causing a stir with the biggest trading and naval power within the region--that being Trebizond. Andronikos III Komnenos would never bring this up, not gloating or holding it over his fellow Andronikos--instead trade simply increased between the two, as did their mutual respect.
     
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    Update
  • Hey all, you'll have to excuse my absence--I'm not dead, or sick of this TL, thankfully on both accounts.

    The predominant issue at play at this moment is my countries continued downward spiral into Junk Status--and the issues with amenities which this has caused.

    South Africa has been back on Loadshedding for the past several weeks now--alternating between nearly 10 hour a day power outages and 6 hour a day power outages--which has forced me to work at odd times, as well as left it untenable to write for this TL.

    I've been writing a little now and then, when I'm able to get the time with electricity in to do research and put 'pen to paper' and as of now I've got about a 7th of a post done, which isn't a lot to be honest.

    To add to this family issues have crept up. To spare you the details the next week will be filled with my family handling the affairs of a dying member, which will take up that time.

    Just know I haven't forgotten or abandoned this TL, and I'm still working on it every chance I get. Hopefully I'll be able to buckle down and write out a proper 'May to December' section soon.

    Keep safe and well!
     
    Part 1; 1331, April to July - The Ego of Technicalities
  • "And thus it was that the Emperor, on edge and already loath to their very existence, used his own force to crumple the dominant appendage of a Genoese tradesman who dared touch his shoulder in desperation for answers," - Alexandros Komnenos, the Resurgent Palaiologoi, Chapter 3 of 10, 'The Aegean Door Shuts'.


    May

    It was a slow march back to the Golden Gate. Both the Emperor and his men were exhausted, despite their personal elation at their victory. Their years of near-constant campaigning all across the Aegean had taken their toll.

    Despite his exhaustion, the Andronikos III himself was also quite genuinely relaxed in the quiet moment it took to return to the Queen of Cities; his Queen of Cities.


    It was sheer chaos the moment they came into the view of those along the Mese--as if Constantine the Great himself had returned to lead a triumph through the city; only those voices in the ground were tinted this time with the yells of the aggrieved. Andronikos' moralism, in the end, had seen him eject most of the Genoese of Galata into Constantinople itself; rather than see them slaughtered.

    And here they were; questions flew--and the moment grew tense as he and his men marched into the city itself; step by step they went, surrounding their beloved Emperor--even as the Genoese got closer and demanded answers--anything.

    The scene thundered when a small scuffle broke out between the Emperor himself and a Genoese merchant--the end result being a broken arm for the merchant, and the faster marching of the Emperor and his men.

    That's how the month started--with a broken Italian arm and an emotionally frayed Emperor.

    Andronikos collapsed in on himself when alone--and slept; day in and day out. It was John who rose to the occasion--who organised aid and guard for the Genoese, who organised Galata's stripping to ensure it abided by the agreements parsed out between the Genoese and Romans [1].

    The Empress herself juggled the court, as well as caring for her son--even as she tried to raise her husband out of the state he'd fallen into. Such was the worry the Emperor's sudden absence caused that even his own troops began tapping their knuckles to the door to get updates.

    Andronikos only rose once more a week into the month--waving aside questions from all, even John, as news had come of the arrival of a delegation from Genoa who were apparently--as one could put it--quite displeased with the motions of the Romans.

    The way they stepped the city, one would have almost though they expected to see it in ruins; not rebuilding and remilitarising--and that seemed to put them on edge even before they were pressed through the rigours of the courtly process of Constantinople.

    The delegation had to wait another week, as was custom for events such as this, before they could even see the Emperor--and see him they did on the 18th of May after much pomp and circumstance; making a big show of it all themselves even as they went to see the Emperor.

    While reduced from their previous splendour, the courtly notions were still adhered to as best as possible; with rotating shows of artefacts and gifts of various sorts--yet behind it was a continuous poke and prod from the Emperor, as if he were simply waiting for the Genoese to stop wasting his time and get on with it.

    The Italians were understandably angry--and they made as much clear; pressing the Emperor on the fact that they'd lost 3 of their most important possessions within such a short span of time--Galata itself being the biggest of blows to their Aegean and Black Sea operations.

    Andronikos danced around them, so it seemed, always keeping a friendly and attentive tone even as he tore down their arguments like one would wood rot. The Emperor deconstructed the various agreements, and quite easily proved how in each case the Genoese had violated them first each and every time. Just to ensure the point was made, the Emperor made a show of 'returning' the Galatan keystone as a tongue-and-cheek point at the fact that the Genoese had time and time again violated their agreement not to fortify their leases.

    The men of Genoa themselves were not without merit--and over the next week of parsed talks they were able to conclusively shift blame from themselves to their colonists within Galata, as well as some overzealous and unsuited governors; a notion the Emperor was all too happy to play into, with his own twists and turns.

    By the 27th the final agreement parsed out through the delegation was put to signature; with Andronikos agreeing to allow the Genoese discounted customs and general taxes in all their previous leases save Galata, as well as giving them a few select births within the great harbours of the Golden Horn and Bosporus. This, combined with Andronikos agreeing to pay the transport fee of the Genoese repatriation ejected from Galata, wrangled out of the Genoese an admission that the actions of their kin had voided any right they had to the lands retaken from them.

    A key notion of this agreement was also the provision that the Genoese be allowed to pass through the Propontus and Bosporus at a discount, so that they may continue to have weight in their Black Sea colonies. This, with much haggling, was agreed to.

    A secret clause input within their agreement was one pertaining to Venice; a clear and simple section that stated that the Romans wouldn't simply hand over the concessions to the Venetians again. If the 'Greeks' were so intent on booting Genoa out, then it demanded equal footing with Venice, not an uphill battle.

    By the time the Genoese left, Galata--now known as Sykai once more, was already on its way to being rebuild as a stockpile as well as a pasture for its famous shepherds.

    Andronikos couldn't shake the idea that perhaps Genoa had gone too easily--that they knew something the Romans didn't.

    June

    With the issue of Genoa seemingly dealt with, and the Emperor himself on more firm footing, things progressed in a measured manner. With the continued successes the court itself was starting to get restless; Andronikos and John represented a new generation of ambitious men who were in their 30's and roaring to go; to make changes--so it was only natural that many would begin to press the Emperor to go further, and beyond, considering his victories.

    Famously, Andronikos was forced to put his court in its place when its members pestered him too much on the issue of Bulgaria; if they should even allow it to remain independent when clearly Romania itself was on the rise again. Surely, the Romans could make easy work of the Bulgars; and yet Andronikos was aware enough to see the folly in this.

    Bulgaria itself was *the* enemy the Empire had to worry about. It could stonewall the Turks across the Propontus, but if it angered the Bulgarians it's heartland would never--ever, be safe. So, the Emperor played his court like a fiddle; buckling down with the aid of John to make various needed updates and reforms.

    The Empire had reclaimed a comparatively large chunk of territory in the Balkans and Anatolia--and the lands of Cishaemus [2] (land south of the Haemus, such as Philippopolis), the lands of Thessaly, Lower Epirus, Bithynia and the Aegean Isles. This was also added to by the militarisation of Upper Macedon. These actions had produced five new districts, three of which were militarised governorate, and the final who were a Thematic-like Duchy and Naval Thema; Nicaea and the Isles respectively.

    These lands had been carved out yes, and had--mostly, been given leaders, but they were each very top-heavy, with Cisheaemus itself not even being fully integrated as of yet.

    Considering these factors, and the way the court was moving, Andronikos decided to kill two birds with one stone; he'd clear the board and improve the stability of the Empire.

    Those courtiers angling for more warlike notions were given writs to govern towns and settlements within Anatolia, as Andronikos well-knew that Artemos [3] would be fully capable of tempering them down. Their spirits and manner would be more suited to Anatolia, than elsewhere.

    Those of a more tempered nature were split up between the various governed lands of the Southern Balkans, with most being assigned to Cishaemus; given towns and settlements as well as empty lands to develop. The lands of the Cishaemus would be directly governed by Constantinople itself, in contrast to the rest of the governorates set up [4].

    Andronikos felt that the importance of the land, considering it was the border with their main ally, dictated that it must be directly handled by the Emperor.

    All of these efforts took a full month to realise, as reports and counter-reports had to flow in and out of the Queen of Cities over and over to its territories; leaving the Emperor just enough time to celebrate the first birthday of his son and heir, John Porphyrogennetos, as well as settle in to the fact that he had another child on the way--as Anna herself was once more pregnant [5].

    July

    It was hardly unexpected that once the storm with the Genoese had settled that the Venetians themselves would make a show of themselves; arriving on their ships in finery and pomp--as if they owned the ground they walked on.

    Andronikos wished from the moment he saw their expressions that he could hang them from the Great Chain like wind-chimes, but he kept himself in check--if only barely. Such a thing forced John to step up and handle proceedings; with both he and Andronikos taking particular enjoyment in reminding the Venetians that there were protocols, and that like any other people they had to follow them too and await the Emperor's agreement to meet them.

    So, he dragged it out a week.

    While it would have been warranted enough, in Andronikos' eyes, to make them wait simply because they were Venetians--there was an ulterior motive. Andronikos had Alexios, the skilled shipmaster he was, darting his eyes about to ensure nothing was afoot, as well as having his various bureaucrats dig into the archives and tug out whatever documents they could find pertaining to Venice so that he and John would be better prepared.

    Thus, in due time, the Emperor met with the Venetians--led by a particularly haughty representative named Giusto Barozzi, who seemed just as genuinely surprised at the fact that Constantinople itself wasn't burning to the ground as the Genoese had been.

    While Barozzi attempted to take charge of the proceedings he was quickly disarmed and defanged by John, who reminded him where he was and who he spoke to, stripping the Venetian of any momentum he might have gained to leverage anything before he could even react.

    Clearly this wasn't the same docile and placid Empire the Venetians had enjoyed under Andronikos II.

    Andronikos himself was the one to give the Venetians permission to continue, and in that moment they seemed mesmerised by the mere notion of being in the presence of an Emperor--as if finally realising just what sat before them; with his cheek palmed in his hand and haughtier manner than even Barozzi could muster.

    The Venetians were simple in their requests it seemed, now that they'd been cowed; asking for a similar deal to the Genoese--their merchants within Constantinople having tipped off their mother-city to the dealings gained by the Genoese.

    John was willing to parse things out with the Venetians, but it was a mere feint--as everything had already been decided between Andronikos and himself beforehand, thus--on cue, Andronikos cut John off and gave to the Venetians a managed agreement.

    Simply, the Venetians would get effectively everything the Genoese got (save obviously the hidden clause, which was itself not known to the Venetians), save the reduction to the Bosporus tolls, as the Venetians had no colonies or efforts within the Black Sea that could even warrant an argument.


    Barozzi did attempt to haggle, as one would expect, but Andronikos was firm about this deal; take it or leave it, nothing else. Thus, by the 28th, the Venetians had their deal in hand and signed by the hand of the Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans himself, and were being led out of the palace by the Emperor and his retainers as a courtesy.

    Apparently, caught up in the moment--after spending a month trying to secure this deal, Barozzi pointed towards Galata without really considering it--asking if it was for lease now that the Genoese were out.

    All Andronikos had to do was point towards it, and indicate that Barozzi look at it closer--and see the land being stripped and pulled apart even as it still remained an ominous ruin--to make his point.

    "No, I don't think you'll find us very agreeable hosts,"

    ---
    [1] This agreement would form the bedrock of Geno-Roman relations for the next two or so decades. It had the effect of seeing the Romans and Genoese avoid each other in political matters, as Genoa itself was worried what could happen if they tried to lash out at the Romans; fearing that such an action would open up their flank to being battered by the Venetians.

    [2] A sort of 'stand-in' or 'simplified' term for the lands between Adrianople and the Haemus Mountains. Officially there was no direct designation for that area until the 1400's, it was simply a rough 'area' melting pot between the Bulgarians and Romans. It would later be titled as Eirinikigi, or 'Peaceful' when new Eparchies were drawn up by Manuel II Palaiologos during his reforms.

    [3] Artemos continued his efforts in Anatolia around the 1330's, notably able to begin raiding the regions roughly corresponding to Aetolia and Mysia that were in Turkish hands. Artemos is a beloved character within Roman legend--akin to Nikephoros Phokas; someone who never lost a battle, even if most of his battles were raids.

    [4] While Andronikos himself only intended to make governance itself easier, he ended up inadvertently laying the groundwork that would allow his successor, John V, to repair the damage done by the Medieval Warm Period. Said Warm Period destroyed the yield of Anatolia and lessened the yield of the Balkans, as those regions dried out and were unable to produce much in the way of goods anymore. Such shortfalls contributed to the decline of the Empire, as the Themes were no longer as productive as they once were.

    Within Anatolia this allowed the Turkish herdsman lifestyle to take over and propagate, which played a part in how easily they integrated into the land--within the Balkans the packed nature of the soil hindered growing efforts, and it wasn't until John V widely adopted the Slavic-style heavy plow to turn over the soil, verses the standard Mediterranean 'nail' plow that merely scratched the ground, that yields increased and the Romans were able to widely recolonise and rebuild its Balkan lands.

    [5] Maria Palaiologos, Andronikos' original first-born, is born here instead of earlier. She would be Andronikos' last child.
     
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    The State of the Roman Army, Andronikos III
  • "Against the Turk the natural instinct of your men will be to shell-up; an instinct born of a fear of arrow-fire. Do not, under any circumstance, allow this--rout, and death, will follow. Pierce the Turk with lance, or crumple their head with mace; do not give them a second to breathe. The Turk will break, and flee, should they see the charge of the Cataphract," - Andronikos III, the Nikidikos (Code of Victory) | Apo to Dory kai to Stylo (By the Spear and Pen) - 1340 , Imperial Bibliothekai (Library) of Constantinople.

    A force begun as no more than untrained men of various common professions, the Imperial Army of Emperor Andronikos III gradually gained veterancy throughout it's continued service on the frontlines of Imperial warfare; from Anatolia, to the Aegean, to Greece.

    The army itself has been through multiple iterations, as the Emperor himself reconfigured the layout and equipment of the men he led based on his own whims and needs within the moment, and time, with the army itself contributing multiple governors and aristocrats at Andronikos' own discretion.

    Notably Artemios of Nicaea, Michael of Arta and Manuel of Bitola.

    The primary function of the Imperial Army, as it was formed under Andronikos III, was a mobile military force of spread-skills viable for use in reclaiming anything from land, cities or for use in pitched battles and raids.

    As such the army itself had a rotating 'cast' of armour and equipment depending on the situation at first, which was eventually boiled down to the most basic and effective tools needed to face the various enemies of the Empire; most of this being developed against the Turks of the Ottoman Beylik at first, then adaption from there to face the Bulgarians of Dobruja, the Serbs of Serbia and the Latins of occupied Greece.

    [1] The infantry of the Empire was, at this stage, equipped with what had become standard over the centuries; predominantly a mixture of mail, gambeson-like cloth armour, and aventails underneath metal helms. This armour was accented with a decorated kite shield, or an oval shield should they be a lighter skirmisher. In arms, the infantry carried spears of varying lengths, with a straight spathion blade as their primary secondary. Javelins and other various projectiles were in use by every infantryman, depending on what the situation called for--with darts being famously used to kill the horses of Turkish horse archers.

    [2] The archers of the Empire began to take more precedence under Andronikos III, as they could be used to harry and badly maim the cavalry of the Turks and Balkan peoples; namely the Serbs. Archers were generally equipped with kettle hats, and lighter cloth armour with metal accents.

    In contrast to the Hunnic bows of many previous Roman archers, the Palaiologan army Andronikos built relied on Turkish compound bows that fired strong and accurate medium-length arrows. Archers themselves carried a small one-handed axe or spathion, alongside an oval shield upon their back, should they have been forced into melee combat.

    [3] As expected, the cavalry of the Empire was still the primary tool of war made use of by the Emperors. While previous generations of Roman cavalry had multiple wings of different types--such as horse archers, the cavalry made use of by Andronikos III were instead rather simplistic and applicable to most situations; equipped with mail, lamellar and other akin armour that turned them and their horses into the riding 'statues' of their time.

    In order to combat the various cavalry groups that were made use of by the Empire's enemies, the cavalry relied on past knowledge accrued most notably by the Komnenoi; the most important of which was that the Turkic peoples of Anatolia were heavily susceptible to lances and maces. As such, every cavalryman carried four things; an oval shield strapped to their non-dominant arm, a lance, a mace and a curved paramerion.

    The medium nature of the standard Imperial cavalry gave them enough armour to render most weapons against them less effective, as well as allow them to remain mobile for longer periods of time than heavily armoured cataphracts. In this sense, Andronikos effectively made medium cataphracts.

    [4] As in any period of Roman history, the Empire also relied on various ad hoc and irregular forces; usually drawn from the lands they were fighting in or defending. However, where as before many of these forces would be mercenaries, the effects of Battle of Velbazhd saw Andronikos permanently kill the notion of integrating huge mercenary formations into the Roman Army.

    Thus, most of the ad hoc and irregular forces were commoners, retired soldiers, and recruited prisoners drawn up as needed during campaigns. The most famous instances of this were in Andronikos' Anatolic campaigns early in his reign as sole Emperor, as well as his use of Aegean commoners to overthrow the Genoese leasers.

    Considering their nature, they didn't have a specific and codified set of arms and armour; although a notable thing was that those forces drawn in Anatolia tended to be equipped akin to the Akritai that had once defended Anatolia.
     
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    Part 1; 1331 to 1333 - The Silent Decade, Part 1
  • "Much can be said about how very little in the way of major events occurred within the decade following the capture, sack and stripping of Galata. I myself would compare it to a roughly similar period of time within Basil II's reign which was itself silent and without note as very little happened worth noting. Today we can look back at this and speak on how vital it was that the Empire had a whole decade to simply breathe, but that is with hindsight in mind," - Alexandros Komnenos, the Resurgent Palaiologoi, Chapter 4 of 10, 'The Tranquil Decade'.

    1331 - August to September

    August itself began with the news that the Turks of Anatolia were getting restless; namely those along the coasts of Troas and Ionia--as the fact that both the Romans and various other polities such as the Knights of Rhodes were patrolling the Aegean with their navies put quite a huge dent in their piracy operations.

    It was within the earliest part of August that the Beylik of Saruhan began making preparations to besiege and capture Phokaia, one of the last cities within Ionia still under Christian control; although in this case under the control of the Genoese; their last property within the Aegean [1].

    Alexios, Megas Doux of the Imperial Navy, saw within this event a moment to shine for himself--as various merchants came calling for aid from anyone; be they the Romans, the Knights or the Genoese.

    With the permission of Andronikos, who himself was busy finalizing the distribution of the dozens new civil governorships across the Empire's Balkan and Anatolian territories with the aid of John.

    The Megas Doux organized several volunteers who were willing to serve as what amounted to marines, as well as coordinating his navy as two functional bodies; one to intercept and destroy the elements of the Saruhanid navy, and the other to provide aid in the form of supplies to Phokaia.

    The entire effort was a drawn out affair, that came to an end when the Saruhan ceased their attack in order to fend off raids from their southern Turkish kin, the Aydinids, who took to raiding the lands of the Saruhan while they were distracted with their attempts to take Phokaia.

    With the siege over, the Genoese governor of the city attempted to force out the Romans, fearing that his Roman population might overturn his rule in favour of their kin. His efforts turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, as his actions against a navy that the people of Phokaia saw as their saviours sparked a revolt that quickly saw the governor lynched and the land turned over to Alexios, who stood in for Andronikos without even asking the Emperor first.

    By the time news got back to Andronikos all he could really do was send along a defended convoy to Genoa with recompense funds to reimburse the rough cost the land--including the alum mine that Phokaia held.

    Upon Alexios' return to Constantinople the Emperor chastised his Megas Doux, making sure he understood the weight of what he'd done in simply taking the city--even if the people had requested it. In turn however, the Emperor had to acknowledge the situation, officially creating the Lordship of the Isles in late August--which combined the isles of Limnos, Lesbos, the Sporades and the city of Phokaia into a single governorship which was attached to the position of Megas Doux [2].

    September itself was unnoteworthy besides the fact that it saw the continuation of the stripping of Galata, as well as the crowning of Stefan Dusan; which saw Manuel of Bitola raise his forces to patrol the Roman-Serbian border for weeks to ensure that the Serbian King well-knew he wasn't welcome south of it.

    1331 - October to December

    With funds and resources coming in from Galata's stripping, Andronikos was able to start considering other factors within Constantinople itself--namely the fact that he now had access to excess building material, and a skilled enough population to enact refurbishment efforts.

    Considering the loss of Galata as a port, the Emperor's mind was immediately brought to the Neorion, the harbour of the Golden Horn which had acted as the chief port of the Propontus and Black Sea prior to Galata's theft of such a title. With the prodding of John, the Emperor ordered it refurbished and expanded--but on his own thinking he also ordered the port of Kontoskalion within southern Constantinople given proper treatment of its own [3].

    Particularly caring for the Kontoskalion, the Emperor ordered it given largescale reworks in order to protect it from the pervasions of the area; fusing it with the Port of Sophia to create a twin-port. The Western Port would take in goods coming from the Empire's Aegean territories, namely Thessaloniki and the Lordship of the Isles--while the Eastern Port would act as an enlarged naval mooring and thus the major dock of the Imperial Navy.

    The fact that the city was thus able to, slowly, start gaining more supplies from both ends of the city allowed him to also put into action his next major push by December--after having taken the previous months to ensure the affairs with both harbours were going smoothly.

    Andronikos ordered the restoration of the Bibliothekai, the famous Imperial Library of Constantinople--the last great library of the ancient world. The Library itself had fallen into major decline following the Latin occupation of the city in 1204, and had not been restored by the Palaiologoi up until his point due it not really falling onto the agenda.

    The Emperor was quickly wishing to become known for things other than his military campaigns, as it was becoming quite clear with how quiet things were that he wouldn't be able to always rely on throwing himself into war to spend his own time--thus, things such as the Bibliothekai came to his mind.

    1332 - January to June

    With more time to work on matters of state, Andronikos was forced to confront the fact that the judiciary was itself filled with corruption, as was quite a lot of the Empire that was still within direct control of the Emperor; as the various governates he'd set up had been quite effective in squashing corruption within their own designated patrimonies.

    Not wanting to allow himself the humiliating notion of not being able to control those within his direct grasp Andronikos elected to depart from Constantinople in late January, and take what amounted to a 3 month tour of his direct domains at the head of a 500 man retinue. From Adrianople to Thessaloniki the Emperor would mediate issues; brutally tearing out the rot that had been allowed to grow during the reign of his grandfather.

    It was a meandering notion, and by the time he returned to Constantinople in April of 1332 he'd once more reminded his people of how proactive he was--and was quick to take what he'd learnt while cracking down on corruption within his lands to reform the Supreme Court of Rome (Kritai Katholikoi tōn Rhomaiōn) that had been effectively created by his grandfather.

    The panel was expanded from 12 to 14, two of which were to be filled by men of ecclesiastical background, and each would deliberate and function under new codified rules which were penned by John rather basically and understandably in a booklet that became known as the Mikronomos (Little Law).

    One of the primary changes made by Andronikos III was the allowance of appeals, should the person making said appeal be able to viably back up his appeal using the the available Roman law; allowing for two attempts at appeal and none after that.

    This work took up much of Andronikos' time, when combined with his constant motions between the various building sites of the Capital; checking in on each now and then when not busy so as to ensure their quality.

    It was through sheer effort that much of this rework was done by mid-June, which allowed Andronikos to be present for the birth of his daughter Maria; which was something important in hindsight, as the birth took a heavy toll on Anna and necessitated that the Emperor spend more time with the Empress to aid in her recovery.

    Thus it was that the Emperor dedicated the rest of the month to ensuring the recovery of his wife--delegating much of the governance of the Empire, save the finer details he had to personally sign off on, to John--as was expected by this point.

    1332 - July to December

    As the Emperor got back to work within the state, it quickly became obvious that recent events had opened up several doors for the Empire; the most obvious amongst them being the recent rise of Wallachia as a polity following their miraculous victory against their Hungarian overlords within recent times.

    With this in mind the Emperor drafted several letters to the young Tsar of Bulgaria, Konstantin, who was himself busy tending to the sorry state of his own Empire. Bulgaria served as a buffer of sorts between the Vlachs of Wallachia and the Romans by its sheer geographical position, and had a history of ruling the lands of that now constituted Wallachia.

    Thus, Andronikos requested the right to send merchants through Bulgaria into Wallachia, to serve as tradesmen and connect the economies of the three polities through trade; as the Emperor saw the bigger picture of the matter; if the Romans were to truly regain their power within the Balkans they'd need to be proactive in their efforts.

    Konstantin himself was shrewd, and made sure to haggle with Andronikos before agreeing--seeing the two agree to various customs and tolls which would ensure that both got something out of the deal.

    By late August dedicated and mutual trade efforts came knocking at Wallachia's door--pressing Basarab I of Wallachia with these notions. Considering his polity was itself rather poor and underdeveloped, Basarab jumped at the chance given to him with his noted ambition and vigor--purposefully playing second-fiddle to Konstantin if only to make things smoother.

    It wasn't long before all three polities began trading more officially with each other, with the raw materials coming from the Vlachs being refined by the craftsmen of Bulgaria and Rome in a round-about economic system.

    Even as the months tick on things continue to change, with the notion of a fame in South-Western Europe seeing an uptick in food trade within the Aegean as well as other areas of the Empire.

    Such an uptick in trade naturally brought pirates to the forefront, namely those of the Karasi Beylik of Mysia--a Beylik barely clinging to life after having much of its territories either raided (by the Romans), or annexed (by its fellow Turks) [4]; seeing the notion of piracy as the only way to bring some sort of prosperity.

    Such a notion only proved to be it's downfall, as with much of its focus towards the sea it was unable to defend itself against Artemios of Nicaea--who, with permission from Andronikos, began an lightning campaign against the Beylik in late September, turning it's capital into a smoking ruin by the onset of December and seeing its lands annexed into the Duchy of Nicaea after it was made official by Andronikos prior to the yearly Christmas celebrations.

    1333 - January to December

    A year with truly little to speak on, 1333 was famed for a few events though--namely the expansion of the famine that had already begun the previous year; famously gaining the title of Lo Mal any Primer, the First Bad Year--an ominous notion of things to come.

    With the famine in full swing, many states pivoted towards internal affairs, with things only made worse when several natural disasters struck both Italy and Egypt in the form of floods; devastating cities such as Cairo and Firenze.

    Most of these had very little affect on the Romans, besides increasing and decreasing their trade in intervals depending on the 'mood' of the week. Instead the Romans continued to focus on the various building projects of Constantinople, as well as the the integration of both the Wallachian-Bulgarian-Roman tradeline, and of the former Karasi Beylik.

    Within December however, Marino Sanudo Torsello, a man of Venice who considered himself a historian, published his 'Istoria del regno di Romania (History of the realm of Romania)'--wherein he detailed the status, lands and various notions of the Latin occupied Greece. Within it's pages were many inaccuracies that had to later be corrected; owing to the efforts of the Romans in their reconquests and the various changes within the area this caused.
    ---
    [1] Andronikos simply didn't have the time to consider Phokaia previously--as while he'd been able to reclaim the Aegean Isles under the control of Genoa, he had been pulled back to Constantinople shortly afterwards to handle Galata.

    [2] The Lordship of the Isles would serve as bulwark against Latin and Turkish aggression within the Aegean, as its component parts were capable of providing both the income and material to fund the defence of the Aegean. This was added to by the strategic power the Lordship had considering the positions of its isles, as well as Phokaia.

    [3] Unlike the Neorion, the Kontoskalion suffered from the storms of the Propontus and Black Sea, and thus regularly silted up. This saw it quickly abandoned for the Neorion until Justinian the Great refurbished it so that Constantinople was able to get trade and imports from both sides. It fell into decline after several fires, and was used as a military mooring thereafter, until Andronikos refurbished it once again.

    [4] Much of the Beylik was annexed either by the Saruhan's or the Ottomans, with the core of it's lands escaping annexation due to the fact that the Ottomans were beaten back by the Romans during Andronikos' early reign. However, this only bought them another three years, before they were finally annexed.
     
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